07 May 2021

Voting Access

Welcome back. The initial results of the 2020 Census were released last month, and the race has begun. Population counts from the census are used to apportion the 435 seats in the House of Representatives among states and, thus, also determine the number of each state's electoral votes (one per senator and one per House seat) for the next 10 years.

2020 Census results (from news.yahoo.com/census-results-big-disappointment-hispanic-005034556.html).
By the end of September, the Census Bureau will provide the breakdown of population by local areas. Each state will then redraw (redistrict) their congressional districts to ensure they are of equal population and adjust other legislative boundaries.

Although some states with more than one district have shifted redistricting from the state legislatures to special commissions or made other changes, most have not (33 at last count). Instead, these states use or have the potential to use redistricting for partisan gerrymandering (manipulate district boundaries to favor their party). Gerrymandering can exert a huge influence on election results and everything that goes with that.

Wait, this isn’t a blog post about gerrymandering; in most cases, we’ve got 10 years to fix that. There’s an immediate, more pressing problem. Partisan politicians won’t need gerrymandering if they can stop people from voting.

Suppressing the Vote

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 required certain states and local governments that had a history of voting discrimination to obtain federal approval before implementing any change to their voting laws or practices. That protection went by the wayside in 2013, when the Supreme Court ruled, in Shelby County v. Holder, that one section of the Voting Rights Act was no longer constitutional.

President Lydon Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965 into law, with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., other civil right activists and politicians standing behind him (from dp.la/primary-source-sets/voting-rights-act-of-1965/sources/1389).
Did it matter? Oh, did it ever. Within five years after the ruling, there were cuts to early voting, purges of voter rolls, imposition of strict voter ID laws and closure of nearly 1,000 polling places, many in predominantly African-American counties. Virtually all voting restrictions were by Republicans.

But apparently that wasn’t enough. Trump’s unsubstantiated claims of election fraud convinced millions of his supporters that the results were rigged, undermined voter trust and gave Republican state legislators a new, albeit bogus, justification to restrict voting access--election integrity. As of late March, they had introduced 361 bills in 47 states.

An April Pew Research Center survey of 5,109 U.S. adults confirmed that Republicans and Republican-leaning independents bought into what Trump has been pitching and now back what their legislators have been trying to do for years. For example, the percentage that favor early or absentee voting without a documented reason fell from 57% in 2018 to 38%, while Democrat and Democrat-leaning independents’ support remained over 80%.

Wrap Up
That April Pew survey found marked differences in Democrat and Republican support for multiple voting proposals, from requiring government-issued photo IDs to allowing ex-felons to vote. 

Pew Research Center survey of response of Democrats/Democrat-leaning independents and Republicans/Republican-leaning independents to voting access proposals; April 5-11, 2021, 5,109 U.S. adults (from www.pewresearch.org/politics/2021/04/22/republicans-and-democrats-move-further-apart-in-views-of-voting-access/).
Still, the current political split is best captured with the finding of a March Pew Center survey of 12,055 U.S. adults: Everything possible should be done to make it easy for every citizen to vote – agreed to by 28% of Republicans/Leaning Republican and 85% of Democrats/Leaning Democrat.

Thanks for stopping by.

Redistricting and gerrymandering:
Voting Rights Act of 1965 and Shelby County v. Holder:
Voter suppression and latest threats:
Pew Research Center surveys:
April 2021: www.pewresearch.org/politics/2021/04/22/republicans-and-democrats-move-further-apart-in-views-of-voting-access/
March 2021: www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2021/04/01/share-of-republicans-saying-everything-possible-should-be-done-to-make-voting-easy-declines-sharply/

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