The Catch-22 Facing Black Voters At The Ballot Box

“The 2022 midterms are approaching and Black voters must choose between the Republican Party, which has actively worked against their interests for decades, and the Democratic Party, which has long struggled to meaningfully address race and racism, as well as issues important to Black voters — such as police reform and federal voting rights legislation.

The sad thing, at least for most Black voters, is it’s an easy choice. In the last 60 years or so, the Democratic Party, despite its many failures, has done far more for Black voters than the GOP. That’s why the vast majority of Black voters cast ballots for Democrats even if they aren’t necessarily liberal themselves. And therein lies the problem: Because Democratic leaders know that most Republican candidates aren’t a truly viable option for Black voters, the Democratic Party doesn’t have much incentive to court members of its most loyal constituency.

As former FiveThirtyEight senior reporter Farai Chideya wrote back in 2016, Black voters are so loyal that they’re considered “captured” — a theory put forth by Paul Frymer, a professor of politics at Princeton University, in a 1999 book titled “Uneasy Alliances: Race and Party Competition in America.” In other words, they’re ignored by one major party and taken for granted by the other.

“In recent elections, there’s normally some sort of conversation around what direction Latino or Asian Americans are going to swing,” said Jennifer Chudy, a professor of political science at Wellesley University. That “reveals the predicament Black voters are in because there’s not even a curiosity surrounding what they’ll do. … And I think they’re unique in that way.””

“Black voters are “captured” not simply because most favor Democrats, but because overt appeals to them are seen as disruptive to the rest of both party’s coalitions. But other voting blocs don’t necessarily experience the same thing. So, for example, Republicans can court white evangelicals because direct overtures to this group — for example, promoting anti-abortion policies, Christian values or legislation against transgender students and athletes — won’t turn off a majority of Republican voters. Certain civil rights issues that would have the greatest impact on Black voters, in contrast, are seen as too taboo to promote because being pro-Black is often conflated with being anti-white. As a result, politicians on both sides of the aisle often ignore Black voters’ concerns because they don’t want to take steps that would either turn off white voters or make it seem like they’re disrupting the existing racial hierarchies of power where white people are at the top.”

The presidential penalty

“The historical pattern is clear, and ominous for Joe Biden and Democrats this year: The president’s party usually does poorly in midterm elections.”

“Some theories focus on lower turnout among the president’s supporters. Others emphasize the public’s tendency to sour on an incumbent president. They may both be correct to some extent.
Other theories focus on why some presidents tend to do worse than others in midterms. Maybe the results are mainly about presidential approval these days. Or maybe they’re about the economy or, more specifically, real personal income growth. Some national crises, like 9/11, are associated with unexpectedly strong midterm performances for the president’s party — but others are associated with blowout defeats.

None of these signs are looking great for President Biden right now. His approval rating is the second-lowest of any president’s at this point in their presidency since modern polling came into use. The economy is booming by some metrics, but inflation is at a 40-year high and eating into voters’ spending power. The country is still in the midst of the pandemic, but Biden hasn’t unified the country around his leadership.

There’s no one weird trick that can guarantee midterm success, or one theory to perfectly explain every midterm result. But there are several that, considered together, go a long way toward helping explain why this so often happens — and what November’s midterms might herald for Biden.”

“The trend predates World War II, so it’s not about recent developments. It happens in states (the governor’s party usually loses seats in off-year legislature elections), so it’s not just about the presidency. It’s not just an American phenomenon, either. “It also occurs internationally in systems where there is a chief executive election separate from a midterm,””

New York is about to let noncitizens vote. It could reshape local politics forever.

“a national movement to give voting rights to legal noncitizens has found its way to the country’s most populous city and, pending court battles, will soon give those immigrants the chance to shape local elections.
About 800,000 green card holders and others authorized to work in the country will become eligible to vote for mayor, City Council and other local offices. New York is by far the largest city to make such a move.

The impact on local elections could potentially be far-reaching. The city’s electorate consists of just under 5 million active registered voters, meaning a major push to register immigrants and get them to the polls could reshape politics in New York. Voting blocs like the one that elected Linares could have the power to affect the outcome of not just City Council races but even the next mayoral race.

Proponents say noncitizen voting will give more political clout to communities whose concerns have often been overlooked, and force candidates and elected officials to be responsive to a broader swath of the population. Opponents — who are challenging the law in court — predict it could be a logistical nightmare, and charge the increased influence for immigrant voters could come at the expense of U.S.-born Black voters.”

“New York wasn’t alone in allowing some form of noncitizen voting in years past: as many as 40 states practiced it at some point from the 18th century through the early 20th century, according to research by Ron Hayduk, a professor at San Francisco State University who has studied noncitizen voting, including the New York school board election. The practice was abolished in the last of those states nearly a hundred years ago.”

There Is More Than One Big Lie

“There’s a mountain of baseless overlapping claims piled up inside the stultifying biodome of the Big Lie: voters casting multiple ballots, dead people voting, ballot-counting machines flipping votes, foreign nations hacking systems to swap totals. The Big Lie is an à la carte conspiracy theory — a bit like QAnon in that respect — where adherents pick and choose what sounds right to them and disregard what doesn’t. Each individual who believes the Big Lie has their own suspicions about what took place, a personal recipe of different conspiracies to nourish their belief that the election was illegitimate. In right-wing chat groups on the messaging app Telegram, these theories are traded as casually as chats about the weather.”

“Every iteration of the Big Lie, though, is wrong. The ones in the darkest corner of the Internet? Wrong. The ones brought forward in lawsuits by the Trump campaign? Wrong. The ones already debunked by news sources? Still wrong. There is no evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 election.
Still, polling gives us a glimpse of the most popular theories on the Big Lie menu. Last summer, a YouGov/CBS News poll asked voters who thought there had been widespread voter fraud and irregularities in the 2020 election exactly what they thought had happened. They were asked about various sources of voting and how much of the voter fraud came from those sources, either “a lot of it,” “some of it” or “hardly any or none.”

Seventy-seven percent said “a lot” of voter fraud and irregularities had come from ballots cast by mail, and 70 percent said a lot of it had come from voting machines or equipment that were manipulated, but just 22 percent said a lot of the fraud had come from ballots cast in person. Racism also appeared to inform a lot of thinking around the Big Lie: 72 percent said a lot of the fraud had come from ballots cast in major cities and urban areas, compared with 22 percent and 14 percent who said a lot of it had come from suburbs and rural areas, respectively. And 39 percent of those who believed voter fraud was widespread said “a lot” of fraud had come from ballots cast in Black communities, while 25 percent said so for white communities and 27 percent said so for voters in Hispanic communities.”

“When they asked Americans to compare hypothetical political candidates, Republican voters favored candidates who embraced the Big Lie by an average of 5.7 percentage points to candidates who accurately said Trump lost the election. This suggests that the Big Lie is not going anywhere soon and that it will have a meaningful sway on elections. Already we’ve witnessed the Big Lie being wielded as a campaign tool by Republican candidates across the country, demonstrating the power of this belief among the party’s voters.

And as polls continue to capture the millions of Americans who endorse the Big Lie, precisely what they believe matters less than how that belief influences their actions.”

Georgia Election Investigation Fails, Once Again, To Find Massive Voter Fraud

“Much was made both during and after the 2020 presidential election about rampant voter fraud. This week, yet another of those claims fell apart under scrutiny.

In September 2020, Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announced that more than 1,000 people may have voted more than once in the state’s primary and runoff elections that year. Amid ongoing allegations of widespread vote fraud from President Donald Trump, Raffensperger charged that the voters in question returned absentee ballots, and then also voted in person—a violation of both state and federal law. Raffensperger assembled a task force to investigate, and he warned that convictions under Georgia law would garner up to 10 years in prison and $100,000 in fines.

But now, Raffensperger admits that his initial claims were overblown.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Tuesday that in response to requests for information about the investigation, the secretary of state’s office indicated that only around 300 cases of double-voting were ultimately substantiated, “almost always because of mistakes by confused voters and poll workers.” Of the 1,339 cases which Raffensperger initially claimed, the confirmed total represents barely more than one-fifth (22 percent), though the paper contends that about 100 cases remain “under investigation.””

“Georgia voters who fill out an absentee ballot may either mail it in or drop it off. They could also go to their polling place and vote in person instead. In that case, according to page 55 of the State of Georgia Poll Worker Manual, the poll worker’s terminal will prompt that the voter has been issued an absentee ballot. At that time, the voter would either turn in their absentee ballot to be discarded, or if they did not have it with them, the poll worker would call to verify that the ballot had not been counted before having the voter fill out a form requesting their original ballot be canceled.

If, as Raffensperger alleged, more than 1,000 voters cast more than one vote, by mailing back an absentee ballot and then also voting in person, then in every single case that would require a failure on the part of the state of Georgia or its poll workers.

There is evidence that Raffensperger’s office realized this when he first made the claim. According to emails published by American Oversight, a government accountability watchdog group, on the same day that Raffensperger made the announcement about double-voting, Ryan Germany, the general counsel to the secretary of state, was advising members of the task force on the subject: “There are systematic checks to stop double voting from happening, and those checks appear to be largely working as intended. [Some] people likely voted twice inadvertently or because they were not sure if their absentee ballot had been returned on time.””

South Dakota’s Governor Succeeds in Blocking Voter-Approved Marijuana Legalization

“South Dakota voters made history last November by simultaneously approving ballot initiatives aimed at legalizing recreational and medical use of marijuana. The success of the broader initiative, Amendment A, was especially striking because it prevailed by an eight-point margin in a state that is mostly Republican and largely conservative. But thanks to a legal challenge backed by Republican Gov. Kristi Noem, Amendment A was almost immediately tied up in litigation, and last Wednesday the South Dakota Supreme Court definitively overturned it, ruling that the measure violated the “single subject” rule for constitutional amendments.”

“State legislators proved more willing to set aside their personal views on marijuana in deference to the policy preferred by voters. “In my mind, [legalization is] inevitable because we’ve already seen the support from the public,” Senate Majority Leader Gary Cammack said after Klinger’s decision. “I didn’t vote for recreational marijuana, but my constituents did,” added Greg Jamison, another Republican senator. “Rarely do we get a chance to enact a law and not for sure know what our constituents think of that. Here we know.”

In response to such comments from members of her own party, Noem threatened to veto any legalization bill the legislature might decide to pass. Noem later suggested she might be open to decriminalizing low-level marijuana possession. Possessing two ounces or less is currently a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a maximum $2,000 fine.”

How the Christian right embraced voter suppression

“White evangelical Protestants now make up 14 percent of Americans, down from 23 percent in 2006, “the most precipitous drop in affiliation” for any religious group, according to a 2020 survey from the Public Religion Research Institute. Even though white evangelicals made up 34 percent of Trump’s voters, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of election data, their support wasn’t sufficient to propel him to reelection. “Without such broad support for Trump among White evangelicals, [Joe] Biden would have beaten him by more than 20 points,” the Pew analysts wrote earlier this year.

Trump’s defeat proves that even massive conservative Christian turnout is no longer enough to win. The strategy white evangelical supporters have coalesced around to supplement it: election laws built on the lie that the other side’s ability to turn out voters must be “fraudulent.””

“As Trump tried to strong-arm state election officials to throw out the ballots of 11,780 Georgians and declare him the winner of the state’s 16 Electoral College votes, the Family Policy Alliance of Georgia sent a fundraising email to its supporters in December: “Election reform is coming to Georgia, and we are all in!”

Cole Muzio, the group’s executive director, acknowledged that this was new territory for his organization. “As you know, this is not one of our ‘core issues’,” he wrote. “However, issues like life, religious freedom, and school choice will never win if the vote is being diluted by radical leftists exploiting the system to cheat.””

“When Democrats stunned even themselves by winning both seats in the January 5 runoff, Georgia Republicans sprang into action, introducing a slate of bills that would, among other things, eliminate drop-box sites, impose more restrictive rules for absentee ballots, and prohibit judges from extending voting hours at precincts experiencing long waits, all under the guise of stopping fraud. Another objective was to defeat Warnock, who is up for reelection in 2022.

The flurry of legislation overtly became about religion and race, pitting white evangelical Republicans against Black church leaders, whose flocks are predominantly Democratic. One provision would have eliminated Sunday voting, a potentially dire blow to get-out-the-vote efforts of Black churches and their “souls to the polls” events that have been at the core of Black voter mobilization for decades.

A national outcry led legislators to nix that provision. But Republican lawmakers ignored the objections of the state’s Black pastors to the bill’s many other restrictive provisions. Black leaders couldn’t even get a meeting with GOP leaders, said Rev. Timothy McDonald III, senior pastor of the First Iconium Baptist Church in Atlanta. “They didn’t pay any of us any mind.”

Less than two months after the bill was introduced, Gov. Brian Kemp signed a 98-page law that criminalizes providing water or food to voters standing in line and empowers state officials to replace local election officials — for example, the Democratic registrar of voters in Fulton County, which includes Atlanta — with appointees from their own party. The impact would be greatest on Black voters. “It is How to Steal an Election 101,” McDonald said.”

“National organizations aligned with the Christian right embraced “election integrity” with fervor. In March, Heritage Action for America, a sister organization of the right-wing policy hub the Heritage Foundation, announced it would pour at least $10 million into lobbying and TV and online ads about the urgent need to “protect the rights of every American to a fair election.” In a video obtained by Mother Jones, a Heritage Action official admitted that the organization drafted the legislation in many states, including Georgia, and helped organize support.

At the same time, evangelical leaders opposed measures that would make it easier to vote. Advocates particularly targeted the For the People Act, which would create nationwide automatic voter registration, restore voting rights of the formerly incarcerated, and expand voting by mail and early voting, while shoring up the security of election infrastructure. The Phyllis Schlafly Eagles — an offshoot of the group once headed by the late conservative figure best known for helping kill the Equal Rights Amendment — claimed (falsely) that the bill “would enshrine Democrat ballot stuffing into federal law forever.” The Family Research Council called it “a federal power grab that cripples states’ ability to run elections and increases the likelihood of voter fraud” (another lie). Other conservative activists contended that the act’s financial disclosure requirements violated First Amendment protections for religious speech.”

“There were plenty of true believers. A June Washington Post/ABC News poll found that while only 30 percent of all respondents favored passing “new laws making it harder for people to vote fraudulently,” 51 percent of white evangelicals supported such legislation. While 62 percent of all Americans expressed support for “new laws making it easier for people to vote,” only 43 percent of white evangelicals did.

By that time, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, 17 states already had enacted 28 new laws suppressing voting rights.”

How America lost its commitment to the right to vote

“The Voting Rights Act is arguably the most successful civil rights law in American history. Originally signed in 1965, it was the United States’ first serious attempt since Reconstruction to build a multiracial democracy — and it worked. Just two years after President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law, Black voter registration rates in the Jim Crow stronghold of Mississippi skyrocketed from 6.7 percent to nearly 60 percent.

And yet, in a trio of cases — Shelby County v. Holder (2013), Abbott v. Perez (2018), and Brnovich v. DNC (2021) — the Court drained nearly all of the life out of this landmark statute. After Brnovich, the decision that inspired Kagan’s statement that the Court has treated the Voting Rights Act worse than any other federal law, it’s unclear whether the Supreme Court would rule in favor of voting rights plaintiffs even if a state legislature tried to outright rig an election.

These cases are the culmination of more than half a century of efforts by conservatives who, after failing to convince elected lawmakers to weaken voting rights, turned to an unelected judiciary to enact a policy that would never have made it through Congress. All of this is bad news for minority voters in America, who are most likely to be disadvantaged by many of the new restrictions currently being pushed in statehouses across America, and for the country’s relatively young commitment to multiracial democracy. And there are at least three reasons to fear that decisions like Shelby County and Brnovich foreshadow even more aggressive attacks on the right to vote.”

“Georgia recently enacted a law that effectively enables the state Republican Party to disqualify voters and shut down polling precincts. If the state GOP wields this law to close down most of the polling places in the highly Democratic, majority-Black city of Atlanta, it’s unclear that a Voting Rights Act that’s been gravely wounded by three Supreme Court decisions remains vibrant enough to block them.”

“The impact of Shelby County was fairly swift. In 2013, for example, Texas enacted racially gerrymandered legislative maps, even though a federal court had rejected many key elements of these maps under the Voting Rights Act’s preclearance provisions. Yet, with preclearance dead, the Supreme Court upheld nearly all of Texas’s gerrymandered maps in Abbott v. Perez (2018).

Similarly, if preclearance were still in effect, it is unlikely that many of the controversial provisions of Georgia’s recently enacted voter suppression law would survive. And certainly no federal official acting in good faith would permit Georgia to simply start closing down polling places in Black neighborhoods.”

“The biggest uncertainty surrounding the Court’s voting rights decisions, in other words, is whether the Court will enable efforts to lock Republicans into power no matter what voters do to elect their candidates of choice, or whether the Court’s majority will, at some point, tell their fellow Republicans in state legislatures that they’ve gone too far.

The answers to these questions, moreover, won’t be found anywhere in the Constitution, or in any law enacted by Congress. The Roberts Court’s voting rights cases bear far more resemblance to the old English common law, a web of entirely judge-created legal rules governing areas such as contracting and property rights, than they do to the modern, more democratic model where federal judges are supposed to root their decisions in legal texts. The future of democracy in the United States will be decided by six Republican-appointed justices’ arbitrary whims.

And, if a majority of the justices do support a wholesale attack on liberal democracy, their actions will hardly be unprecedented.

Nearly a century before President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act, Congress and state legislatures passed a different kind of legislation that was supposed to guarantee the franchise to people of color.

It’s called the 15th Amendment, with its command that “the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”

The pre-Voting Rights Act United States did not deny voting rights to millions of African Americans because we lacked a legal guarantee protecting the right to vote. We did so because powerful public officials — including judges — decided that they did not care what the Constitution had to say about voting rights.

We’re about to find out whether the Supreme Court is going to repeat that history.”