Commentary: Republicans Are Freaking Out about Voting

(Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
(Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Record numbers of Americans have been requesting absentee ballots, telling pollsters about their determination to vote, and showing up in states that have started early voting.  These facts scare Republicans, and some are taking desperate steps to thwart voting.  Four case studies show a bit about the Trump-ian desperation.

Let’s start here in Tennessee.  This past Friday the Knox County Election Commission voted, 3 to 2, along party lines to deny an attempt to make early voting easier.  The plan was to move the early voting site on the University of Tennessee campus from the Baker Center to Thompson-Boling Arena.

The move made so much sense.  The Baker Center is a lovely archive and meeting facility built around the legacy of former Sen. Howard Baker, but it has fewer than a dozen parking spots. Thompson-Boling Arena has approximately 1,500 parking spots and could be open for nearly two weeks.  Chancellor Donde Plowman and Student Body President Karmen Jones joined many other local people and non-partisan groups who spoke in favor.  The only opposition speaker was the chair of the Knox County Republican Party.

The Election Administrator said that if the commission voted to make the move, his staff could make it happen even on short notice.  Nevertheless, the panel’s three Republicans stuck together, leaving early voting on the UT campus at the Baker Center for only the last four days of early voting, the only early voting site with such limited days.

The only speaker to oppose moving early voting at the University of Tennessee to a larger facility was the chair of the Knox County Republican Party.  

Texas Republicans, sensing they are losing their grip on the state, also are pushing the panic button.  Gov. Greg Abbott last Thursday issued a proclamation that each Texas county could have only one drop-off location for mail-in ballots in this election.  Abbott’s shenanigans may not have much effect on, say, King County, third least-populous county in the U.S. The voters among the county population of approximately 277 people likely would have no problem dropping ballots in a box in the county seat of Guthrie.  But King County wouldn’t equal the population of one subdivision or large apartment complex in Houston’s Harris County.

Harris County has roughly 4.7 million people, but too many of them vote Democratic for Abbott’s liking, so he demanded it immediately close eleven of its dozen drop-off sites.  Just for bad measure, Abbott’s gambit would force Travis County, home to reliably Democratic city of Austin, to shrink from four locations to one.

Pennsylvania’s Republican-majority legislature, certainly taking note of how their party is flailing in statewide polls, are pushing to create a Republican-dominated “election integrity” committee.  Democrats quickly spotted how the committee would have the power to disrupt the election by questioning officials on election night and even subpoenaing ballots.  It could fit as a key cog in a Trump machination to deny the will of Pennsylvania voters, using the legislature to appoint Trump-devoted electors to steal the presidential race in the Electoral College.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel last week filed felony charges against two well-known Republican operatives, charging them with intimidating voters, conspiracy to commit an election law violation, and using a computer to commit an election law crime and a conspiracy crime. The charges allege a robocall scam aimed at suppressing the Black vote in the Detroit area.  Nessel’s press release further noted, “It’s believed around 85,000 calls were made nationally, though an exact breakdown of the numbers of calls to each city or state are not available,”

The robocall voice calls herself Tamika Taylor and declares, “Mail-in voting sounds great but did you know that if you vote by mail your personal information will be part of a public database that will be used by police departments to track down old warrants, and be used for credit card companies to collect outstanding debts?  The CDC is even pushing to use records for mail-in voting to track people for mandatory vaccines.  Don’t be finessed into giving your private information to the man. Stay safe and be aware of vote by mail.”  All lies, of course.

A good rule of thumb: do not choose any candidate or entity that works to make your voting more difficult, lies about the voting process, or seeks ways to ignore or not count your vote.  Republicans somehow think they are running an anti-Democrats effort.  Actually, they are working against democracy itself.