America’s democratic voting threatened

Trump’s “election fraud” commission was aimed at justifying Republican efforts to keep Democrats from voting. The commission’s ignominious demise doesn’t end those efforts, to craft voter ID requirements surgically targeting the kinds of ID poor, minority, and elderly voters (mostly Democrats) are least likely to have. But this is only part of what’s happening. Here are three further flashpoints:

1. The Constitution requires a decennial census, the next in 2020. The Trump administration is severely underfunding census preparation, presaging a fiasco. Why would Republicans deliberately sabotage the census? Because it’s used to apportion congressional seats and electoral votes among states, and for legislative districting within them. A fully accurate census would count more poor and minority citizens, especially the growing Hispanic population.* That would reduce Republican electoral mojo. Better for them if the census fails. Of course, that prevents fair apportionment.

2. Another voter suppression tactic is to simply throw voters off the rolls. Ohio has adopted the nation’s most stringent scheme, purging people who have not voted lately. Hundreds of thousands of registrations have been voided — two-thirds Democrats. That would clearly violate the Help America Vote Act (adopted after the 2000 Florida mess), which says non-voting is not a permissible basis for canceling someone’s registration. Except that Ohio first sends a postcard asking for address confirmation; voters who don’t reply are purged. Will that suffice to evade HAVA? The Supreme Court will decide.

3. Russian disinformation and other skullduggery threw the 2016 election to Trump. They also tried to hack voting systems — apparently failing. But given their success on the outcome anyway, they will surely try again in 2018 and 2020, stepping up their game. Vote hacking is a particularly acute concern; among all state and local election systems, there are bound to be vulnerabilities that sophisticated, determined hackers (especially with government resources) can defeat.**

Trump, of course, is deranged regarding his 2016 “great victory,” refusing to acknowledge Russia’s role. Putin didn’t expect Trump to win; his real aim was, and continues to be, messing up our democracy. He doesn’t want it to stand as an attractive contrast to his authoritarian kleptocracy. Russia’s own elections, of course, are a sham (Putin won’t even allow his leading opponent on the ballot). He wants our elections to look just as bad, another symptom of a supposedly degenerate West, versus Russia’s cultural “moral strength.” (And many Russians do see things this way; talk about shit-hole countries!)

Please think how big a threat this is, to America’s character and way of life. A bigger threat, actually, than WWII’s Nazis or Japanese, or even the Cold War’s Soviets. None of them could really have destroyed America. But if trust in our democracy falls apart, our country is as good as destroyed. Many Americans already think the system is rigged and big money buys elections. If we can’t even trust the counting, we’re sunk.

And what is the Trump administration doing about this existential threat? Denying it even exists. Indeed, helping it along, with its own efforts to undermine free and fair voting.

* There’s also a proposal to ask census respondents to state their immigration status — obviously aimed at reducing the Hispanic count.

**A novel, Shelley’s Heart, featured a presidential election stolen by computer chicanery. Surprisingly, it was published back in 1995.

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