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Weeks before the 2018 midterm elections, concerns remain about possible voter suppression tactics in various regions of the U.S. Why do voter roll purges, voter ID requirements and poll shutdowns disproportionately affect minority communities? Emory University professor Carol Anderson joins Amna Nawaz to explain why these aggressive measures seek to solve a voter fraud problem that doesn't exist.
Three weeks from today, voters will head to the polls for the midterm election.
But recent news of alleged voter suppression in some key races has many wondering if they're still able to cast their ballot.
To take a closer look at where voting rights stand right now, I'm joined by Carol Anderson, professor of African-American studies at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. She's the author of the book "One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression Is Destroying Our Democracy."
Professor Anderson, welcome to the "NewsHour."
I want to begin by asking you about some more recent conversations around voter suppression. They tend to look back just a few years at a 2013 Supreme Court decision, that decision to roll back some of the protections of the historic 1965 Voting Rights Act.
What's your take on how significant that move was?
Oh, the gutting of the Voting Rights Act in the Shelby County v. Holder decision of 2013 was significant. We had already had the sowing the seeds of the erosion beginning in the 2000 election, where you have the language of voter fraud really coming to the fore there and then being embedded in federal law with the Help America Vote Act, although voting fraud had been debunked by the time that that had happened.
But by the time we get to the 2013 election, the ground had really been sown for this. And it, in fact, just let all of the kinds of Voting Rights abuses run loose.
We see that in many of the states that have been cleared, had previously been under pre-clearance from the Department of Justice. And we also see that in states that hadn't been pre-cleared, but had taken on the mantle of stopping supposed voter fraud.
When you say pre-clearance, I want to clarify for our audience these were states that had a history of discriminatory practices when it came to voting statutes. They no longer had to get federal approval to change those rules.
But when you say significant, who did it affect, what population, how many people?
And so where you see the effects really come from what I call the Obama coalition.
In the 2008 election, you had — he brought with his incredible ground game 15 million new voters to the polls, overwhelmingly African-American, Latino, Asian-American, young and poor.
When we began to look at these voter suppression laws, that's the group that is targeted. That is the group where issues such as voter I.D., issues such as closing voter — voting polls, issues such as voter roll purges, all of those began to take into account and hit each one of those groups, sometimes simultaneously, sometimes one more than the others.
But that's where we're seeing it. And we're seeing it in terms of, for instance, in Wisconsin with the voter I.D. law. After the 2016 election, a study was done, and it was found that 8 percent of whites were stopped from voting by the voter I.D. law, but 27 percent of African-Americans were stopped.
We're seeing with voter roll purges in Ohio, for instance, where two million have been purged off of the rolls so far. But in one of those major purges, 25 percent came primarily solely out of Cuyahoga County, which is Cleveland, which has a sizable African-American population.
Professor Anderson, you mentioned the voter I.D. laws, voter roll changes as well.
A lot of people who are putting those steps into place at the state and local level say, these are necessary to protect the integrity of our elections, to continue to make sure that they are fair.
So why wouldn't we want our voter rolls updated? Why wouldn't we want people to have to show an I.D. when they vote?
And that's one of the great ways the way voter suppression works, is that it sounds reasonable, until you see how it's operationalized, and when you also understand, for instance, that the issue of voter I.D. is based on the lie of voter fraud.
And what I mean by that is that Justin Levitt, a professor out of California, did a study. And from 2000 to 2014, he counted up all of the votes in all of the elections and came to one billion votes. Out of that, he identified 31 cases of voter fraud, 31 cases out of one billion votes.
That's hardly the massive, rampant voter fraud that we consistently hear as needing to have all of this protection via voter I.D. But based on that lie of voter fraud — and I say that lie because even when the proponents of voter fraud are really called to bring out the evidence of it, such as Kris Kobach out of Kansas or Gregory Abbott out of Texas, they cannot identify massive, rampant voter fraud.
At best, Greg Abbott was able to come up with two cases in all of Texas. And so protecting the integrity of the ballot box then is not the issue, because the ballot box is not under siege by voter fraud.
And so what we get then is that kind of sounding reasonable with we need voter I.D., but for what? And the way that the voter I.D.s are crafted is like North Carolina. Look at the data by race on the kinds of I.D.s that African-Americans have and didn't have, and then crafted the law to go for the ones that African-Americans didn't have.
And that is what we're seeing. In Alabama, for instance, Alabama said you needed to have a government-issued photo I.D.
Professor Anderson, I'm hearing you say this is a problem around the country then, because often we talk about it like it's in the South.
But you have named a number of states there where your studies have shown this occurs.
And we will have to leave it there for now.
Professor Carol Anderson of Emory University, thank you very much for your time.
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