The ‘Voter Suppression’ Smear Is Back

March 19, 2020

Democrats have accused Republican officials of closing voting locations and rationing voting machines, forcing primary voters to wait hours to vote. This is a distortion of the truth, but it fits the narrative that the GOP will do anything to stop racial minorities from voting. Expect to hear it again and again this election.

Former Attorney General Eric Holder, founder of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, and Stacey Abrams, the defeated Georgia gubernatorial candidate, focused in a recent NDRC fundraising email on “brutal Republican voter suppression” in Texas, where “the state has closed hundreds of polling sites in communities of color and people were forced to wait as long as seven hours to vote!” Their message was simple: “When Republicans can’t win, they cheat.” The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, which supports would-be state lawmakers, agreed, calling this a GOP “scheme to rig the rules” and “suppress democracy.”

Democrats were particularly taken with Hervis Rogers of Houston, an African-American man who waited more than six hours to vote at Texas Southern, a historically black university. He cast his ballot at 1:30 a.m. Wednesday, the polls having been kept open for anyone still in line at Tuesday’s 7 p.m. closing.

“We need to restore the Voting Rights Act and stop Republican elected officials from shutting down polling sites,” Hillary Clinton tweeted. Chuck Schumer, the Senate Democratic leader, joined her: “This is unacceptable—and a result of continued GOP attacks on the voting rights of American citizens.”

Such moral outrage. Such righteousness. Such baloney.

Mr. Rogers’s nearly seven-hour wait wasn’t due to a Republican plot. Polling closures and voting-machine shortages were the results of bad decisions by local Democrats. Texas is a red state with exclusively Republican statewide elected officials, but Houston is in Harris County, which is dominated by Democrats. They run elections there.

Harris County Clerk and Chief Election Officer Diane Trautman, a Democrat, was in charge of Super Tuesday’s vote. She ran for office promising to consolidate voting locations so people could cast ballots at “countywide voting centers” rather than at their precincts.

Ms. Trautman’s staff gave Republicans and Democrats the same number of machines at Texas Southern, though any rookie would know that site would have a much larger Democratic primary than Republican. Ms. Trautman could also have listened to GOP officials, who urged that machines be allocated to locations based on historical turnout. Instead she overruled them.

Oh, and it turns out Mr. Rogers, the voter with the longest wait, was ineligible to vote. He’s a felon on parole and, under Texas law, not allowed to register until he completes his sentence in mid-June. Apparently the Democratic tax assessor-collector and voter registrar didn’t check the county’s records when he signed up.

Lina Hidalgo, the Harris County executive, was surprised to discover right before Super Tuesday that Ms. Trautman put two-thirds of polling sites in the county’s more-Republican part while consigning the heavily Democratic part to have more countywide voting centers. Why didn’t Ms. Hidalgo, another Democrat, realize that earlier?

A 2019 study from the Leadership Conference Education Fund, a civil-rights group, found that Texas counties with rapidly growing Latino and black populations reduced their numbers of voting sites. A Texas Democratic Party spokesman blamed Republican officials for it, adding, “People have died to fight for the sanctity of the vote.” Racist Republicans? Look more closely. Out of 254 Texas counties, the three biggest reductions in polling places since 2014 were in Dallas (74); Travis (67), home to Austin; and Harris (52). All three have Democratic county executives, court clerks and tax assessors making the decisions.

The smears weren’t confined to Texas. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez complained that Bernie Sanders lost Michigan because of “rampant voter suppression,” citing University of Michigan students who waited hours to vote. There were also long lines in Los Angeles. Again, Democrats were in charge—Ann Arbor, Mich., has a Democratic mayor and council, and four of five nonpartisan Los Angeles County supervisors previously won office as Democrats.

Accusations of voter suppression are an essential part of the Democratic playbook. So let’s be clear about what these are: cynical attempts by Democrats to generate votes by inciting racial division. People like Mr. Holder, Ms. Abrams, Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Schumer will knowingly undermine confidence in America’s election system and sow racial resentment with baldfaced lies to win. We just witnessed their willingness to use this shameful tactic when, really, local Democratic officials were to blame.

They’ll do it again.


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