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Bring back the poll tax!

Earl Ofari Hutchinson

A few days after Former President Trump was ousted from the Oval Office by Democratic presidential opponent Joe Biden, Trump tweeted:

“In certain swing states, there were more votes than people who voted, and in big numbers. Does that not really matter? Stopping Poll Watchers, voting for unsuspecting people, fake ballots and so much more. Such egregious conduct. We will win!”

He spewed all the by-now standard talking points and flat-out lies he and the GOP relentlessly peddled about alleged voting fraud: More votes than voters. Poll watchers who suddenly vanished and were unable to catch cheaters. There were phantom and paid voters who stuffed the ballot boxes.

The jewel in the crown of Trump/GOP vote fraud lies was this: There were loads of fake ballots. Who did Trump think gamed the system so blatantly to steal the election? Who else, but the Democrats? Trump’s vote-fraud claim was the official marching order for packs of GOP governors, GOP-controlled state legislators, GOP house reps and senators, legions of GOP political action groups, conservative talking heads and bloggers to go on the attack.

The attack culminated in the January 6 U.S. Capitol assault that claimed lives, sent legislators scurrying in fear for their lives, and caused tens of thousands of dollars in property damage to the Capitol building.

Former Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made the vote-fraud lie quasi-official when he played cheerleader to Trump’s bogus claim that Trump was still president. In a speech on the Senate floor on Nov. 6, 2020, McConnell egged Trump on, harping that Trump was “100 percent within his rights” to scream “irregularities” in the voting.

McConnell eventually and very grudgingly conceded that Biden did indeed win the presidency. That didn’t end the GOP vote fraud charade. McConnell made clear that he would do everything he could to rein in — maybe sabotage was the more accurate term — Biden’s legislative initiatives.

The Trump/GOP phony canard of vote fraud is a continuation of longtime GOP efforts to bend, twist and out-and-out scrap legal voting rights laws and standards in the states.

Within months, GOP governors and GOP-controlled legislators proposed and tried to ram through dozens of vote restriction laws. The proposals were the usual assorted stuff of everything from voter IDs to closing polling places in predominantly minority neighborhoods.

GOP-dominated states weren’t the only ones who got into the vote suppression act. There was much evidence that some major corporations and business interests kicked in more than a few dollars to bankroll the GOP vote suppression campaign. The Democrats screamed foul They filed and threatened lawsuits in several states, staged legislative walkouts in states such as Texas and Wisconsin, and proposed HR 1, fittingly named “For the People Act.”

The bill will impose uniform standards on federal voting and automatic voter registration, allow two weeks of early voting, make it harder to boot voters from the voter rolls and will give felons the right to vote. The House passed the bill in March 2021. Not one Republican House member backed it. GOP senators quickly followed suit and declared war on the bill when it was introduced in the Senate.

The unmistakable message from the GOP vote repression shenanigans was ‘Don’t even think about such a bill having a ghost of a chance for GOP support.’ McConnell frothed on Fox News that the bill was tantamount to a federal power grab of elections.

The two-decades-plus GOP assault on universal, free and open-ended voting for all in America is a brutal, frontal assault on the spirit and meaning of the democratic voting process. It is a radical realteration of the established premise of voting in a democratic society — the hallowed rule of one person, one vote. It is in every sense a war on the American voting rights system and process.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political comentator.