WASHINGTON, DC, April 13, 2020 – Last week, Republican state lawmakers and conservatives on the Wisconsin Supreme Court and U.S. Supreme Court forced an election with inflexible absentee ballot submission policies in the midst of a deadly pandemic. African-American populations were especially disenfranchised, particularly in Milwaukee, where only five of 180 polling places were open due to shortages of poll workers. As Alliance for Justice Senior Fellow Bill Yeomans traces in his new column, suppressing the votes of racial minorities has been Republican Party policy for more than half a century under the guise of phony voter fraud campaigns.
While campaigns to prosecute this mythical voter fraud have flopped at the federal level under George W. Bush and Donald Trump, this approach has nevertheless prompted states to adopt any number of restrictive laws, including voter ID laws. Such laws have little impact on actual fraud, but they “do disproportionately deter voting by otherwise qualified minority voters, which has made them a favorite tactic of Republican lawmakers.”
Republicans began attacking the preclearance regulations of the Voting Rights Act in the late 2000s, which led to the Supreme Court gutting the provision in 2009. “The lifting of preclearance launched an orgy of vote suppression legislation in previously covered states,” Yeomans writes. “It speaks volumes about the evolution of the Republican Party that it felt obligated in the Senate to support VRA renewal unanimously in 2006, but, to date, only one Republican senator has supported legislation to restore the Voting Rights Act after Shelby County. Suppression of minority voters had become central to Republican electoral success.”
“We cannot allow the Republican Party to steer the country away from its drive toward universal participation, particularly when a key element of its strategy for winning elections is to disenfranchise minority voters,” he concludes.
Yeomans Work focuses on the challenges to the justice system in the era of Trump. Bill Yeomans is available for media interviews. During his time at the Department of Justice, he worked on or supervised criminal cases and a full range of civil rights matters, giving him a deep understanding on the institution and role of career attorneys in the federal government. His opinions are his own and do not necessarily represent the positions of Alliance for Justice. For booking inquiries, contact Zack Ford, Press Secretary, at Zack.Ford@afj.org or at 202-464-7370.