And I guess I want to be very clear that that remains at the heart of much of this. To the extent that that correlates with party, that is a complicating factor that I think makes it very difficult for people sometimes to see why voter suppression is so unconscionable, because people say, “Well, partisan politics and, you know, we’ve always had partisan politics.” But if people really wanted to understand why it’s unconscionable, it’s because it is animated by and emanates from the same motivation that kept the South from allowing black people to vote in the years before the civil-rights movement.
When you watch what happened in Wisconsin, it wasn’t just some accident. It wasn’t a confluence of factors that no one could have imagined. You know, it was exactly what you would expect. We know what these things are. We know how they’re going to affect the African American community, just like voter ID. We know how it’s going to affect the African American community and yet we allow it to go forward in any case. So I think this is a really important watershed moment for us to start having the conversation about what voter suppression really is about, who really benefits when we make it harder to vote. When the president suddenly, out of the blue, disparages mail-in voting, which he has used consistently, what is it about? And if we start the conversation by talking about Republicans and Democrats, then we contribute to losing the very core racial dynamics that lie at the heart of all of this.
Dovere: When you think forward to the next few months, especially with what we saw happen in Wisconsin, voters and election administrators will have to address the coronavirus.
Ifill: The position we have taken is that we should be providing a range and as many means for all voters to access the system as possible. I would never have thought that I would have to say this, but we start from the premise that voting should not require you taking your life into your hands.
So we think there has to be a menu. Sure, there should be open polls to the extent possible. Many of the polls were closed, for example, in Milwaukee County because, as we all know, many of our poll workers are elderly. And they began calling out in droves, saying essentially that they weren’t going to work, and appropriately so, on Election Day, because they feared exposing themselves to the virus.
Dovere: Does what happened here become a blueprint for ways that you would fear other states could use to restrict voting?
Ifill: It’s absolutely, for me, a blueprint of what I cannot allow, what those of us who do this work cannot allow to happen in November. And that means we need more early voting so that you don’t have lines, because you have a longer period of early voting. You do need to have drop-off absentee stations. You do need to expand the time for absentee ballots to be returned to the Board of Elections. We need all of this to deal with the challenges of this pandemic. There are ways to manage this. And I think that’s the menu we’re all sitting with right now and are prepared to lean in to, to ensure that in November we don’t have an election that causes people to risk their lives, but we also have an election that we don’t have to be ashamed of, that everyone who is a citizen who wants to participate can participate on November 3.