Voter Suppression Backfires

We talked yesterday about the kind of substantive reform the GOP could make in order to diversify. Here is a good one: Stop trying to inhibit participation. Stop it. You will not make us lazy. You will only make us angry:
Analysts, voters and politicians said that a series of episodes here in Ohio -- where exit polls showed black voters accounting for 15 percent of Tuesday's electorate, up from 11 percent in 2008 -- were seen by African Americans as efforts to keep them from voting, stirring a profound backlash on Election Day. 

"That was a strong motivator because we know we got here through blood, sweat and tears," said state Sen. Nina Turner, D-Cleveland...

Decisions to limit early voting to weekdays also stirred ire, as did a widely reported comment by Doug Preisse, chairman of the Republican Party in Franklin County, who said in an e-mail to the Columbus Dispatch, "I guess I really actually feel we shouldn't contort the voting process to accommodate the urban -- read African-American -- voter-turnout machine."

When the Obama campaign successfully sued to open polls on the final weekend of the early-voting period, black voters thronged many polling stations.
Barack Obama knew who he was talking to when he called voting the best revenge. We don't need no high-faluting reasons to stand in those long lines. We'll stand there just for the privilege of putting that stutter in Karl Rove's speech, and that panicked look on his face.

MORE: I should have mentioned this up top, but Andrew Cohen, whose done work on this front, looks at the long-term futility of attempting to win elections by shrinking the electorate:

Jacqueline Kane is a winner today. She is an elderly woman in an assisted-living facility in Pennsylvania, a beloved mother who voted first in 1952 and still remembers the day. GOP lawmakers in her state tried to take away her right to vote this year with a photo identification law that would have required her, at age 82, to take a bus and wait in a line. Her daughter stood up for her. So did thousands of other Pennsylvanians. 

You know who else is a winner today? Vietnam veteran Craig Debose, a longtime resident of South Carolina. Debose traveled 11 hours by train this summer to testify in Washington in the federal civil rights lawsuit brought against South Carolina for its restrictive photo identification law. A friendly lawyer asked him, "And why did you come all this way to tell the Court your story?" And Debose said: "So I can vote." This is a statement and a sentiment as American as any you can conceive. The Republicans cannot suppress this. Why would they even try? I couldn't call Debose Tuesday night. He doesn't have a phone. Or a computer. Or a car, which is why he didn't have a driver's license, which is why South Carolina was trying to take away his right to vote. 

I'd like to think that Debose voted this year. And that he voted for the man who will appoint federal judges who will in turn vote to preserve our right to vote against the whims of the majority. But whether he did or he didn't, Debose's story has a happy ending. Fifty years after the war, his country had called him to serve once again. And, again, he had answered the call.

People don't understand that the attempt to disenfranchise broad swaths of the American population is actually in this country's living memory. People have not forgotten. This is their life. It's not a storybook.
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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