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Federal government must protect voting rights

Melvin B. Miller
Federal government must protect voting rights
“I’m glad these people aren’t running the Powerball. There’d never be any winners!”

The U.S. Constitution grants every citizen the right to vote, but somehow not every state has received the memo. Some state governments have made access to the polls more arduous for Democrats. With the size of support for Republicans withering, the strategy for victory has become to reduce the vote count for Democrats by any means necessary.

In the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton actually won the popular vote. She defeated Donald Trump by 2,868,691 votes, but she lost the electoral vote which is based on the results of state victories rather than the size of the vote. Despite the ultimate Republican victory, the prognosis for future growth in the party was not optimistic.

While Trump tallied 52 percent of the male vote in 2016 and 57 percent of the white vote, according to Roper Center exit polls, he had a disproportionately large share of the elderly vote. The more youthful voters supported Democrats — 55 percent of 18-29 year olds voted for Hillary Clinton as did 51 percent of those aged 30-44.

The results of the 2016 election indicated that Republican supporters are aging out. However, that is not what Trump saw. He seemed to believe that three million illegal voters had cast ballots for Clinton. One of his earliest acts as president was to establish the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. This agency, better known as “the voter fraud commission,” spent many months unsuccessfully trying to identify improper voting practices before it was disbanded.

It soon became clear that Trump’s policies were not attracting large numbers of independents to the Republicans, which now controlled three branches of government — the presidency, the Senate, and the House of Representatives. With the midterm elections looming, Republicans could be assured of victory only if the Democratic turnout was low. Republican controlled states launched plans to impair the liberal vote.

A common requirement was for the potential voter to have a valid identification. While that might sound simple enough, it became more complex when the sources for obtaining the ID were limited. States placed the authorizing sites quite distant from where blacks and Latinos lived, the group that was most likely to vote Democratic.

Another strategy was to close or relocate early voting locations that enabled citizens to vote when they could not do so on Election Day. Another trick was to change the customary voting site without adequately informing the voters.

The most sophisticated strategy is to redesign the congressional districts to include a sufficient number of Republican voters to defeat Democrats. The winning party would have a number of representatives that is greatly disproportionate to the statewide party vote.

In the midterm elections, the control of the 435 member House of Representatives has become Democratic, and has attracted considerable attention because of the large number of women who won. The Democratic Congress will be able to counter the White House. But of similar significance is the increase in Democratic governors, up from 16 to 23. States determine the election procedures.

The midterm election was on Nov. 6 and in three states — Florida, Georgia and Arizona — the outcome for certain offices is still undetermined. It is time for the federal government to establish high standards to facilitate voter registration and elections. Public confidence in the electoral process is necessary for the support of American democracy.

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