George Packer: Trump is trying to trick Americans into giving up on democracy
On October 1, Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, ordered all of his state’s counties—no matter how large or small—to have just one ballot drop-off site. Democrats, who are more likely to live in larger counties, were thereby forced to travel longer distances to drop off their ballot. On October 9, a federal judge overturned Abbott’s order. The state of Texas immediately appealed, and a three-judge appellate panel upheld the order.
In Mississippi, Republicans have limited voting by mail by mandating that a voter must have a “legitimate” reason to receive a mail-in ballot. The Mississippi Supreme Court ruled in September that preexisting conditions, even those placing voters at a higher risk of dying from COVID-19, do not automatically qualify voters for mail-in ballots.
When Iowa voters broke records in the state’s primary election, in June, with more than 530,000 votes cast, including 420,000 absentee ballots, Republican state lawmakers did not rejoice. A week later, they passed a bill prohibiting the Iowa secretary of state’s office from unilaterally sending out unsolicited absentee-ballot request forms, as it had done for the primary. “More people will vote under this bill,” said Iowa State Senator Roby Smith, a Republican.
Iowa Republicans reversed course in July. But they prohibited county auditors from mailing “pre-populated” ballot request forms, and blocked them from sending out information on how Iowans without driver’s licenses can secure a voter-ID number to vote.
When voters manage to mail-in their ballots, likely Democratic voters may be more likely to be rejected. In North Carolina, Black voters’ mail-in ballots have been rejected at nearly three times the rate of white voters’, as of September 23. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled in September that election officials could reject mail-in ballots not placed inside a secrecy envelope, which could subtract more than 100,000 votes in a state that Trump won in 2016 by about 44,000 votes.
Republicans are undermining voting by mail because they’ve had a much easier time at voter subtraction in person. On the first day of early voting in Georgia, on October 12, voters waited in long lines for hours across the state. Everlean Rutherford, a Black woman in Cobb County, tweeted that it took her nine hours and 39 minutes to vote. Voters of color are more than twice as likely as white voters to be forced to wait at least an hour to vote, according to a recent study.
Voter-ID laws have effectively disenfranchised Black and Hispanic voters, who are less likely than white voters to have photo IDs. These photo IDs are required to vote in six states (Wisconsin, Indiana, Kansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Georgia), and requested in 10 states (Idaho, South Dakota, Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas, Michigan, Alabama, Florida, South Carolina, and Rhode Island).