One of the infuriating hypocrisies of the Republican seditionists’ mythical claim of election fraud is that the current structure of the American electoral system already provides substantial advantages to Republicans. At the state level, the now constitutionally protected scheme of extreme partisan gerrymandering has allowed Republicans to control the state legislatures in multiple states despite not winning the popular vote. Similarly, partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts has been shown to give Republicans a 19 seat advantage in the US House of Representatives. Republicans have been able to control the US Senate for a large part off the current century despite never representing a majority of Americans. Today, the GOP Senators represent 40 million fewer Americans then Democrats in a 50–50 Senate. Finally, despite winning the popular vote just once this century, Republicans will have held the White House for 12 of the 24 years when Biden’s first term ends. All of these advantages have been further enhanced by an explosion of voter suppression measures implemented since the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013.
However, because of the pandemic and the resulting expansion of early and mail-in voting, we just had an election with the largest turnout by percentage of eligible voters in over a century. In that election, the Republican candidate won more votes than any other candidate in history, with the exception of the Democrat he lost to. Republicans fared far better than expected in both the House and the Senate, as well as in statewide races across the country. In a high turnout election, Republicans actually showed they could compete. Instead, the requirement that the GOP go along with Trump’s mythical claim of a rigged election has allowed Republicans to revert to form and launch new efforts at voter suppression. That reaction became even more pronounced when the Republicans lost two close special elections in Georgia and control of the US Senate.
In Georgia, Governor Brian Kemp is immediately setting out to attack the state’s mail-in voting system which is seen as the reason for those two Senate losses. Kemp, along with Trump-defying Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, wants to require voter ID for absentee or mail-in ballots, replacing the current signature verification system. In addition, according to AJC, Kemp is considering action to “end at-will absentee voting, ban ballot drop boxes and restrict state officials or outside groups from sending out absentee ballot applications”.
A similar effort is underway in Minnesota, where a Republican legislator is introducing a bill to require voter ID for both in-person and absentee voting. In introducing the bill, Republican State Senator Scott Newman basically spouted Trump propaganda, saying, “I believe a voter ID requirement is the only way to truly guarantee the integrity of our elections. Millions of American citizens believe there was widespread fraud during the last election, and their loss of faith in the integrity of our election system alone justifies incorporating photo ID into our voting system. We must use every tool at our disposal to eliminate all irregularities, inconsistencies, and fraud. In addition we must restore faith in our election system for those voters who no longer believe our system is secure. A voter ID rule promises that every single Minnesotan who wants to participate in the process will be counted and protected — no more, no less”. There was no evidence of fraud in Minnesota’s 2020 election.
In Michigan, Republicans have decided that the Black voters in Detroit must be further disenfranchised in order to ensure they do not determine which presidential candidate gets all of the state’s 16 electoral votes. Republican US House Representative Bill Huizenga wants the state to divide its electoral votes by congressional district, as is currently done in both Maine and Nebraska. He writes, “If Michigan were to end the winner take all system of electoral college votes and instead break it up by congressional district, it would make campaigning in our state much more balanced. This would remove Detroit’s outsized influence and encourage candidates to compete for votes in each congressional district across the state, not just the big cities”. It’s hard to get more blatantly racist than that. Under Huizenga’s scenario, Trump would have received 8 addition electoral votes.
Perhaps a more novel and more dangerous effort is going on in Pennsylvania where Republicans, having perfected gerrymandering to such a degree that they thought they would have a near permanent control of the legislature, now want to extend that gerrymandering “expertise” in order to control the state’s judiciary. The GOP has been furious at the State Supreme Court ever since it ruled in 2018 that the Republican legislature’s partisan gerrymandering of the state’s congressional districts violated the Pennsylvania Constitution’s protection of “free and equal” elections. Attempts to actually impeach the Supreme Court judges fizzled so now Republicans have created a new scheme to eliminate the justices that voted against gerrymandering from the bench. According to the Women’s Law Project, under the newly proposed Republican bill, “the party in control of the Legislature would be empowered to carve Pennsylvania into randomly made-up ‘districts’ including seven new Supreme Court districts, 15 Superior Court districts, and nine Commonwealth Court districts. Incredibly, they’re also giving themselves the right to willy-nilly decide when to invent a new district. That means lawmakers could, for example, decide to knock a judge they don’t like off the bench by choosing to redraw a district when they’re up for retention, effectively banning them from the race. They are trying to give themselves the power to shape the very benches that rule on the constitutionality of their legislation. To do it, they have to deprive you of your vote. Under this scheme, you will only be able to vote for judges from your ‘district’ instead of the full slate of the most qualified judges from across the Commonwealth”. It is really the ultimate court-packing scheme.
Something similar is going on in Kentucky where Republicans are also trying to move circuit court decisions regarding constitutional matters or suits against state agencies out of Franklin County which is contains the state capital, Frankfort. Franklin County is generally more Democratic than the rest of the state. This effort is in response to recent high-profile decisions by the Franklin Circuit Court that infuriated Republicans and caused the prior Republican Governor Matt Bevin to call one of the judges “an incompetent hack”. Republicans have proposed legislation that would mandate that constitutional cases and suits against state agencies be heard in the circuit court of the county where the litigation originates. According to the Courier Journal, “Republicans said this would end the burden placed on plaintiffs to travel to Frankfort for cases and end the outsized political influence of the two Franklin Circuit Court judges and the county’s voters who elect them”. Kentucky’s Republican legislators are keeping busy in other areas as well, including both an attempt to strip the Democratic governor of certain powers as well as considering an attempt to impeach him because of his lockdown orders in order to deal with the COVID pandemic.
Now, not all of these attempts will come to fruition. But, like Trump’s mythical claim of a rigged election and Republican claims of voter fraud and election irregularities, they are pure projection, obfuscating the structural advantages our electoral system currently affords Republicans. In addition, they are also an expression that Democratic votes, especially those of Black and brown voters, are inherently illegitimate. The attempts to gerrymander the judiciary are even more disturbing considering the two-tiered system of justice that Black and brown people already face. But, when you consider that the current system allowed a Republican to lose the popular vote and get impeached twice yet still able to appoint one third of the Supreme Court and a quarter of the federal judiciary, it is perhaps the logical next step for an autocratic white nationalist party.
Originally published at https://thesoundings.com on January 16, 2021.