This is what GOP coronavirus voter suppression looks like – coming this fall

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If Republicans were willing to go to this length to save a single state supreme court seat in Wisconsin, to what depths of depravity will they resort to save a U.S. Senate seat or Donald Trump this November? You are forewarned. Be prepared.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports, An election day unlike any other: Wisconsinites vote in the middle of a coronavirus pandemic:

It was an election day for the history books, unprecedented and unimaginable.

Wisconsinites went to the polls in Tuesday’s spring election and cast ballots carefully, deliberately and defiantly in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

“People died for my right to vote, so if I have to take a risk to vote that’s what I have to do,” said Michael Claus, 66, who was among several hundred people waiting in an early morning line to vote at Milwaukee’s Riverside University High School.

Across the state, in schools, churches and town halls, poll workers risked their health to make sure democracy worked. Members of the National Guard also pitched in.

In Milwaukee, where only five polling sites were open, the workers donned face masks and rubber gloves, handed out black pens to voters, wiped surfaces clean and kept the lines moving as best they could even as the state remained under a safer-at-home order.

Wisconsin State Journal adds: “So many poll workers quit ahead of Tuesday’s election that Milwaukee consolidated its 180 polling places down to just five locations, and nearly 300 of the state’s National Guard troops replaced volunteers who quit. Voters wearing face masks stretched around multiple blocks in those locations early on Tuesday.”

Hand sanitizer was a must.

And votes won’t be counted until Monday, another twist in the latest chapter in this only-in-Wisconsin political story.

Election results will not be announced until April 13, after 4 p.m. CDT, because of a federal court order preventing the results from being released before then. Absentee ballots that are postmarked by Election Day and received by clerks before that April 13 deadline will be counted.

The main contest: the state Supreme Court race between Justice Daniel Kelly and Dane County Circuit Judge Jill Karofsky, and the [now inconsequential] Democratic presidential primary.

Outside Milwaukee’s Washington High School, where she waited in a line for two hours, Jennifer Taff held up a sign: “This is ridiculous.” (Above photo).

“I’m disgusted. I requested an absentee ballot almost three weeks ago and never got it. I have a father dying from lung disease and I have to risk my life and his just to exercise my right to vote,” she said.

There were long lines in Milwaukee and shorter lines elsewhere, as well as a palpable sense of frustration.

“We have moved forward with an election, but we have not moved forward with democracy in the state of Wisconsin,” said Neil Albrecht, executive director of the Milwaukee Election Commission.

President Donald Trump weighed in during his daily briefing Tuesday and accused Wisconsin Democrats of wanting to move the election only after he endorsed Daniel Kelly for Supreme Court [it was because of the recent stay at home order issued for the coronavirus pandemic].

“As soon as I endorsed him, the Wisconsin Democrats said let’s move the election,” Trump said.

Asked about reports of long lines to vote in Wisconsin and about voters who may get sick due to a lack of social distancing, Trump put the focus on Governor Evers.

“Ask him, that’s his problem. He should be doing it. Again, some governors fail, and I won’t let them fail because when they fail, I’ll help, but that’s run by Democrats right now,” Trump said.

“Now I understand there are lines that go back a long way, I hope they’re going to vote for Justice Kelly,” he added.

Politico adds: “Mail ballots are a very dangerous thing for this country because they’re cheaters,” Donald Trump said at a White House briefing. “They go and collect them. They’re fraudulent in many cases.”

This man is a murderous sociopath.

In the video below, Republican State Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, donning full medical PPE that should go to doctors and nurses, and which no voters had available, insisted that it was “incredibly safe” coming out to vote. Vos and Republican State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald opposed all efforts to stop in-person voting from taking place Tuesday because of the pandemic. There needs to be a special place in hell for these evil men.

Clerks this year faced a task they’ve never had before: sending 1.3 million ballots by mail, finding workers willing to risk their health on election day, and keeping everyone safe from a deadly virus.

But because of that crush of requests to vote by mail, many Wisconsin voters were still waiting to receive their ballot on election day [estimated 10,000 requests], including Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele, who ended up voting in person at South Division High School.

At least 50 people have contacted the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in recent days reporting issues getting their ballots by mail as clerks became overwhelmed with requests. Some say clerks don’t even have a record of voters’ ballot requests.

With last-minute rules changes, voters had to weigh going to the polls.

Dale Stoeber lives alone in Kenosha and is 71 — too old to vote in person and not risk developing life-threatening complications if he catches the virus. But that’s what he had to do after not being able to get a witness’ signature on the ballot.

“I have no choice but to vote in person, with much apprehension,” he told the Journal Sentinel. “Lord help the state if it is proven down the line that this virus spreads more widely.”

Jason Pelsis, 40, said he requested a ballot online March 19 and didn’t realize he hadn’t received it until Friday.

When he called the Wauwatosa Clerk’s Office, he was told his request had been lost. Pelsis said he tried to show the clerk his web browser history as proof, but it wasn’t accepted, he said.

“I would say I have it better than most people. But I don’t have time to think to go back to a state website for the heck of it to monitor the status of something I thought was completed,” Pelsis said.

Politico adds, Rain, hail, lawsuits and the coronavirus crisis fail to halt Wisconsin election:

They showed up wearing homemade face masks and plastic garbage bags. They waited in lines for nearly two hours. They endured rain and a pummeling hailstorm.

Voters here on Tuesday braved the most grueling of conditions — with some fearing they were risking their lives — to take part in one of the most dangerous elections the United States has seen.

Amid a pandemic so dangerous that this week the United States surgeon general urged people to stay home, Wisconsin voters went to the polls after the Republican-controlled Legislature and a conservative-led state Supreme Court overturned a move to delay it.

Legal challenges began brewing even before the polls closed as voters complained they were forced to show up in person after their request for absentee ballots went unfulfilled. Democrats complained that predominantly minority areas, including parts of Milwaukee, were among those hit hardest by poll closures, and charged that Republicans forced the election as a way to suppress the vote in the most Democratic parts of the state.

“So many people across Wisconsin faced the impossible choice of casting their ballots and protecting themselves and their families. That’s a choice that no one should have to make,” Wisconsin Democratic Party Chair Ben Wikler said. “I think whatever the thought is of what Republican leadership did today, it’s going to change significantly in retrospect when people learn they were exposed to coronavirus at polling places. Weeks and months from now, this will be a completely different conversation.”

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[T]he [court] decisions forced voters to make a choice between exercising their constitutional rights and safeguarding their health and the health of others in the face of a highly infectious and deadly outbreak.

But crowds swarmed to the polls, with some voters saying they had no other choice if they wanted to vote.

“What’s happening in Wisconsin today flies in the face of every pronouncement that we have heard in the last three weeks pertaining to public health,” Mayor Tom Barrett of Milwaukee said in an interview with POLITICO. “Every announcement about stay home, social distancing, stay away from people. There is no scientific exemption for voting when it comes to Covid-19, and to pretend that there is, is insanity.”

Amanda Marcotte writes at Salon, Wisconsin proves GOP’s war on voting is about ending democracy, not just winning:

The Wisconsin Republican Party has been at the cutting edge of the efforts to make sure few, if any, Democratic voters ever make it to the polls again. Under the guidance of former Republican governor Scott Walker, a stalwart opponent of food having flavor, the state enacted a dizzying program of voter suppression, requiring people to have updated government-issued IDs while simultaneously making those IDs much harder to get, especially for people of color. They also suppressed the college student vote by banning most student IDs as a legitimate form of identification.

From the beginning of this war on voters, which has been spread out across the country,  it’s been understood primarily as a partisan power grab, an attempt to keep certain constituencies from voting because they tend to vote for Democrats. Even Donald Trump, always saying the quiet parts out loud, said recently that if voting by mail becomes widespread, “You’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.”

This partisan understanding has, unfortunately, effectively muted both press coverage of this widespread voter suppression and public outrage. Covering this story necessarily requires portraying Republicans as villains and Democrats as victims, since that’s the truth. Unfortunately, mainstream journalists, always wary of being seen as “biased,” have almost universally reacted by underplaying this story, leaving it instead to left-leaning outlets like Mother Jones. Many Americans, drunk on the myth that all politicians are corrupt and always looking for an angle, tune out Democratic complaints about voter suppression as more partisan sniping.

But what’s happening in Wisconsin this week defies the usual partisan understanding of voter suppression. Wisconsin Republicans are exploiting the coronavirus to keep everyone from voting. It’s a preview not just of the way Republicans will use this crisis to shut down voting in particular instances, but an expansion of their anti-voting views in general. It’s starting to look like the Republican war on voting isn’t just about partisan gain, but even more about a deep hostility to democracy itself, and an objection to very idea of letting the people choose their leaders.

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But what’s particularly strange about the Republican insistence on holding election today, in a naked bid to reduce the Badger State turnout to practically nothing, is that it’s not at all clear this will benefit Republicans in the short term.

It’s true that, typically, higher voter turnout tends to benefit Democrats over Republicans. That’s because Democratic-leaning voters significantly outnumber Republicans, but Democrats tend to be younger and less well-to-do on average, and therefore are more likely to skip voting. That’s why voter suppression techniques typically focus on making it hard for younger or poorer people to vote.

But no one can be sure that the coronavirus voter suppression will work the same way, because the people at most risk tend to be older — and therefore more likely to vote Republican. And while there are some general election races on the ballot, including important judicial contests, the most high-profile race is still the Democratic presidential primary, which could create more incentive for Democrats to risk coming out while Republicans sit at home.

That fact hasn’t slowed down Wisconsin Republicans one bit, however. It’s not hard to grasp the reason: This isn’t just about winning elections by cheating, as it’s commonly understood. It’s also about a deep loathing among conservatives for the very idea of democracy, and a compulsive need to shut as many people as possible out of the process of choosing their own leaders. 

This is also true on a national scale. There’s increasing pressure, in the wake of the coronavirus, to make mail-in ballots the norm across the country, as it is in states like California and Oregon. Republicans, however, have made no bones about the fact that they will fight any and all such measures until the end of time.

That makes sense as a partisan move in normal times, because the evidence is clear that Democrats fare well in states with mail-in ballots. But in the age of the coronavirus, the most obvious beneficiaries of universal mail-in ballots would voters over 65, a demographic in which Trump won 52% of the vote in 2016. Meanwhile, the group that would feel the least fear about showing up to the polls, because they’re far less likely to face serious complications from COVID-19, is voters aged 18 to 29, most of whom voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Ultimately, it seems that taking a stand against democracy itself matters more to Republicans than worrying about how the coronavirus crisis has shifted partisan incentives.

This fits an overall pattern of Republicans instinctively choosing authoritarianism over democracy at every turn. Attorney General Bill Barr, for instance, has spent his career pushing for a virtually unlimited level of presidential power and a deep hostility toward allowing Congress to hold the president accountable — even though such unlimited powers would be held by the next Democratic president as well. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s single-minded focus on packing the judiciary with conservative judges is about his desire to monopolize power, of course, but it also bespeaks an enthusiasm for the fact that federal judges don’t have to answer to the public and can rewrite the law without fear of losing an election.

The rise of authoritarianism on the right has coincided with conservatives’ growing realization that Republicans can’t win elections fair and square anymore. But it’s also true that for the right authoritarianism is a reward in and of itself, so much so that Republicans are willing to risk short-term electoral losses for the long-term goal of whittling down democracy into nothingness.

The Republican war on voting, therefore, shouldn’t be understood purely through the lens of electoral gamemanship. That allows both journalists and ordinary voters to treat voter suppression less seriously, as another form of politics as usual. Instead, it’s important to understand that Republican politicians see fewer people voting as an important goal, in and of itself. They’ve largely focused on keeping Democrats from voting up till now, but it sure looks like they’d be just fine with a situation where barely anyone, of any party, voted at all.

I will reiterate what I said about this Republican voter suppression the other day:

The tyranny of the minority will resort to any means necessary to retain their authoritarian grip on power.

The Party of Trump is a political party which has lost all legitimacy and any right to continue to exist in a civilized democratic society. This anti-democratic authoritarian party needs to be soundly defeated from President on down to your local city council and school board. It needs to go the way of the Whigs and the Know Nothing Party of the 19th century, which the Republican Party of Abraham Lincoln replaced.




1 COMMENT

  1. Harold Meyerson writes, “GOP Justices Decree Capital Punishment for Voting”, https://prospect.org/blogs/tap/gop-justices-decree-capital-punishment-for-voting/

    (excerpt)

    “Brett Kavanaugh, in his ruling, expressed a touching faith in the speed of county clerks and the postal system to move the mail, even to late deciders (that is, Democrats). Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in her dissent, said that the ruling would effectively disenfranchise many thousands of voters.

    And there, in a nutshell, you have the fundamental difference between the Democratic and Republican justices who sit on our highest court. The Democrats see voter disenfranchisement as a problem. The Republicans see it as a solution—to what for them is the real problem, which is how to maintain power when a majority of their fellow Americans no longer wish them to wield it.”

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