The Back Road: All hands-on deck against voter suppression

The Back Road: All hands-on deck against voter suppression

Andrew Malekoff

As the 2024 general election steadily approaches, it is essential that our fellow Americans serving as front-line election workers and officials can safely and efficiently conduct the vital work necessary to safeguard registered voters to cast ballots in a free and fair election.

However, their ranks are becoming depleted. To what extent?

On April 25 the Brennan Center for Justice released a poll specifying that almost one in nine election officials have resigned since the 2020 election. The poll projects that that number could double by 2024.

Protecting voting rights is a historically bipartisan issue. Why is this happening now?

“They’re more worried about their safety and the safety of their families, according to Brennan Center president Michael Waldman. “The poll results found that nearly one in three officials have been harassed, abused, or threatened,” he explained. “One in five is worried about being physically assaulted on the job. And 45 percent expressed concern for the safety of other election officials and workers.”

What kinds of threats are election workers and officials facing?

When the ex-president pressured Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, in a recorded phone call, to find 11,780 pro-Trump votes to put him over the top after the 2020 presidential election, Raffensperger explained that there was no evidence of any voting irregularities that would have overturned the outcome of the election.

Ever since, the secretary of state has been receiving threats such as, “You and your family will be killed very slowly” and “We plan for the death of you and your family every day.”

During his call to Raffensperger, Trump singled out election worker Ruby Freeman, calling the 62-year-old grandmother a “professional vote scammer” who “stuffed the ballot boxes.” This was based on Trump advisor Rudy Giuliani’s false allegation that Georgia election workers Freeman and her daughter Shaye Moss, engaged in election-rigging.

Soon thereafter, Freeman reported recurrent incidences of forceful banging on the front door of her home. She called for help pleading, “Lord Jesus, where’s the police? I don’t know who keeps coming to my door.”

Another target was Jim Condos, Vermont’s secretary of state, who retrieved the following email and many more like it: “WE ARE NOW WATCHING YOUR CHILDREN. Your daughter is beautiful. It would be a shame if something happened to her.”

Targeted threats have been personal and broad based. One election worker who was participating in a recount was told, “You better not botch this recount. Your life depends on it.” An election supervisor was warned, “Detonations will occur at every polling site set up in this county.”

Beyond personal intimidation, Republican-controlled legislatures, under the pretense of election security, have found many ways to suppress voting, such as shutting down polls early, decreasing polling sites, and clearing out voter rolls.

“Republican-controlled states continue to advance new, bolder voter suppression laws,” says Marc Elias, founder of Democracy Docket, a website devoted to voting rights and election litigation. “The names of the states change, but the results are the same: voting for minorities and young voters becomes harder and elections become less free and fair. The terrible truth is that these new voter suppression laws are working. Despite the positive political outcome, turnout among minority and young voters in 2022 was down from previous years,” said Elias.

Compounding actions taken to suppress voting is the ever-present threat of political violence that the twice-impeached ex-president has openly or subtly endorsed and is directly tied to Big Lie-fueled conspiracy theories.

In a statement released in August 2022 celebrating the 57th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland assured the American people that the Department of Justice “remains committed to relentlessly protecting voting rights with the enforcement powers” it has. That remains to be seen.

The late U.S. Congressman John Lewis referred to the vote as the most powerful nonviolent change agent in a democratic society. He cautioned that it is not guaranteed and that we can lose it.

All hands on deck.

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