Political scientist explains why 'Republicans are playing with fire' by undercutting the right to vote

Political scientist explains why 'Republicans are playing with fire' by undercutting the right to vote
Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead

As the Republican Party moves more and more to the far right, it keeps trying to make it harder for non-whites to vote. Political science professor Thomas E. Patterson, who teaches at Harvard University in Massachusetts, discusses the GOP’s voter suppression efforts in an article for the Boston Globe — warning Republicans that their efforts to discourage non-white voting will backfire in the end.

“The idea of disenfranchising minority voters was hatched by the Republican-controlled legislatures of Indiana and Georgia,” Patterson explains. “Enacted in 2006, Indiana’s law required residents to have a government-issued photo ID, such as a driver’s license or passport, in order to register to vote. Republican legislators knew who they were targeting. Minority group members, young adults and people of low income — all of whom tend to vote Democratic — are less likely than other Americans to have a passport or driver’s license.”

Patterson adds, “Since then, roughly 30 Republican-controlled states have enacted voter ID laws.” And he points out that when Democrats enjoy decisive victories, Republicans find ways to keep them from governing.

“There was, for example, no constitutional barrier to prevent Wisconsin’s outgoing Republican governor, Scott Walker, in consort with the state’s Republican legislature, to strip the governor’s office of power before the incoming Democratic governor could take office in 2019,” Patterson notes. “But it violated the longstanding norm of American politics that the outgoing party accept the change in power that comes with losing an election.”

The professor continues, “North Carolina’s Republican legislature pulled the same stunt in 2016, when the state’s voters elected a Democratic governor. Republican state legislatures, assisted by computer models, have also pushed gerrymandering beyond ethical limits.”

But Patterson warns that the non-white voters Republicans are trying to disenfranchise will fight back.

“Republicans are playing with fire,” Patterson declares. “Voter suppression lengthens the memory of the suppressed. The votes of black Americans are now all but lost to the GOP.”

Latinos, he adds, “vote 2 to 1 Democratic” — and Asian-Americans “are now one of the Democrats’ most loyal voting groups. Muslim Americans are five times more likely to vote Democratic than Republican.”

“It could take a generation for Republicans to regain the trust of the nation’s minorities, and the GOP can ill afford to wait,” Patterson warns. “By then, it may be too late. In less than three decades, minorities will be a majority of the U.S. population.”

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