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Politics

Punish public officials who disenfranchise voters

Catherine Rampell on

WASHINGTON -- In the federal government and in most states, there are consequences when governments deprive Americans of their constitutional right to liberty -- through, say, wrongful imprisonment.

So why aren't there more meaningful consequences when states deprive Americans of their constitutional right to vote?

Again and again, "voter fraud" has been shown to be virtually nonexistent. Yet in the name of eradicating this imagined scourge, state officials around the country have been systemically and aggressively disenfranchising American citizens. To prevent a handful of votes from possibly being cast illegally, officials purge thousands of eligible voters from state rolls, toss ballots and pass modern-day poll taxes.

This year alone, at least 99 bills restricting access to registration and voting have been introduced in 31 states, according to New York University School of Law's Brennan Center for Justice.

And this doesn't even capture the full extent of voter-suppression efforts, given that some changes have been done administratively rather than through legislation.

A few states have proved to be especially bad actors.

 

In the 2016 election, for example, Kansas threw out more than three times as many ballots as any similarly sized state did, according to a recent Associated Press analysis.

Some Kansans' ballots were tossed as a result of recent policy changes. But others were eliminated because of a stupid software bug. That is, some people arrived at the polls incorrectly believing they had already legally registered, because the state's online registration system had mistakenly told them so. This glitch had been happening for months before the general election, according to emails obtained by the AP.

All this occurred of course under the leadership of Kansas Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach, now spearheading President Trump's "election integrity" commission.

Texas has likewise repeatedly tried to suppress minority (and predominantly Democratic) votes.

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