It has been over 50 years since the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed, which outlawed the discriminatory voting practices adopted in many southern states after the Civil War. However, voter suppression is a topic we hear about way too often – an issue both sides of the aisle have put in the spotlight from different perspectives, especially as this year’s presidential election has gone underway.
This summer, we hosted a virtual screening of the 2019 film Rigged : The Voter Suppression Playbook to shed light onto the work being done by The American Issues Initiative to raise awareness of this challenge. The American Issues Initiative is aiming “to inform and educate the American public about the pressing issues of our day – from criminal justice to education to the challenges of maintaining the vibrancy of our democracy.”(Rigged website)
America’s Democracy Playbook…
In the film, we learn about “America’s Democracy Playbook”, which is a strategic list of the voter suppression plays that were used to suppress the vote from 2010 forward. You can learn about them and about what you can do about it more in depth here, but we wanted to highlight them for you to get a glimpse of just how entrenched they are and have been:
- Project Redmap : “The concept was to leverage true national dollars from national donors on the Republican side and invest them in state races, state legislative races in a way that had never been done before.” – Chris Janowski. Basically, the Republican party decided to invest resources into different channels in order to sway historically “blue states” into “red states”.
- Gerrymadering : This is a concept used by both political parties when they are in power and able to draw the Congressional and state voting districts. The problem is that gerymandering runs counter to the one person, one vote general rule and expectation of a true democratic process.
- Voter Suppression Laws : When Obama won his first election back in 2008, the number of young people and people of color who voted was historic. The “minority” demographic was clearly shifting, and the Republican party felt the pressure. Instead of working to better understand the needs of those voters, they passed legislation that made it harder to vote.
- Gut The Voting Rights Act : Many of the voter suppression laws did not affect the southern states protected by the Voting Rights Act of 1965, so the Supreme Court decided in a 5 to 4 vote ruled that the pre-clearance clause of the Voting Rights Act was no longer necessary because “that widespread racial discrimination in the South was no longer an issue.”
- Voter Fraud – The Big Lie : Numerous academic studies have shown that voter fraud is a rarity and rarely impacts elections. The myth took off after 2008 and is often used as a false justification for passing new voter restriction laws.
- Voter Roll Purges : If challenged voters don’t show up to prove their residency, their names can be removed by the Board of Elections. Purges tend to remove a much higher proportion of non-white voters from the rolls.
- Voter Intimidation : “The whole idea is to make voting seem like a dangerous proposition. That it’s something that might get you in trouble. And again what that does is over a period of time, it insulates Republicans against the effect of African-American and Hispanic population growth.” – Matt Angle, Lone Star Project
- Voter ID DÉJÀ VU : “Barriers that you put in front of the ballot box are going to stop some people from voting. And who do they stop? Those who have a harder time getting off of work, those who have a harder time finding someone to take care of their children, those who have a harder time getting gas money or a ride to be able to get to the polls. That has traditionally been people who are poor, of color, the elderly, students.” – Myrna Perez, Brennan Center for Justice
Chatting with the Executive Producer of Rigged, Timothy Smith…
After screening Rigged, I was able to speak with the Executive Producer of the film, Mr. Timothy Smith. He shared some great insight, and you can watch it here.