In the past election the Democrats retook the presidency, the Senate and the House, but just barely. And GOP planners are already gearing up for the 2022 House elections and the 2024 presidential contest. Rather surprisingly, Donald Trump still wields a considerable amount of influence. Where? Most everywhere, but particularly in the South.

The prime concern for the GOP is the fact that the Democrats outnumber them in most states. Faced with an inability to recruit more party members the Republicans have apparently decided on a strategy of keeping the Democrats away from the polls in the coming elections.

In 37 states so far GOP representatives have already introduced 641 state legislature bills designed to suppress the votes of African Americans, Latinos, women, low-income voters and young people. These groups voted heavily Democratic in the last election. So far this year state legislatures have introduced over four times the previous number of bills designed to suppress voter activity.

Ingeniously-devised obstacles to voter participation include unnecessarily strict voter photo-ID requirements, unwarranted polling place closures and consolidations, election funding cuts, reduced early voting, shortened voting hours and poorly trained poll workers. All of these roadblocks are intended to make the voting experience as tiring and unpleasant as possible.

There was a time when northern big-city political machines and southern small-county segregationist-based oligarchies exercised an enormous amount of control over our nation’s politics. Both of these, I might add, were largely Democratic. The motto back then was “vote early . . . and often.” But these machines began to lose power and influence about the turn of the 20th century and are either greatly weakened or nonexistent today.

New proposals are being introduced in Southern state legislatures to place new restrictions on voting by mail, severely limiting early voting, to further purge registered voter rolls and to impose even stricter voter photo ID requirements. Sadly, all of this is being done in the face of firm evidence that voter fraud hardly exists anymore, anywhere.

In 2018 a federal judge in Wisconsin declared that state’s strict voter ID laws unconstitutional due to an almost total lack of evidence of voter fraud in that state. Voting rights expert Ari Berman recently wrote in the Washington Post, “As the GOP becomes increasingly radicalized and doubles down on anti-democratic tactics, Democrats have to be just as aggressive in expanding voting rights as Republicans are in suppressing them.” Even though the original Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965 under the sponsorship of President Lyndon Johnson on the federal level, there are probably more attacks on voting rights today than before passage of the Johnson bill.

There are currently 541 bills filed in state legislatures that would expand and protect voters’ access and protection. These bills deal primarily with early voting, mail-in ballots, early voting access, new voter registration and some even toward restoring the voting rights of those with pat felony convictions who have served their time.

Republican legislative representatives in 33 states are currently pushing 165 pieces of legislation designed to restrict voting access in the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia. These bills include provisions for stricter voter ID requirements, more restrictive voter registration and permitting more aggressive voter roll purges. It is notable that very little of these measures were even discussed until the beginning of the Trump era.

George B. Reed Jr., who lives in Rossville, can be reached by email at reed1600@bellsouth.net.

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