Let Me Count The Ways…

There are all sorts of tactics that have been employed over the years to suppress the votes of “the other guys.” Recently, those efforts have mostly come from the GOP, but historically, both parties have engaged in them–just as both parties do (and continue to) gerrymander when they control a state legislative chamber.

I’ve recently noted that the efforts to cast doubt on voting by mail are partly motivated by the fact that vote-by-mail defeats many of the time-honored ways to suppress minority votes–and provides a paper trail.

One of the least commented methods of suppressing minority votes–and one of the most effective–is felon disenfranchisement. It is widespread–a number of states forbid ex-offenders from casting ballots–and superficially, at least, it’s race-neutral. For citizens unaware of the over-incarceration of African-Americans during America’s drug war (laid out in indisputable terms by Michelle Alexander in The New Jim Crow), felon disenfranchisement is simply a lingering, perhaps overly-harsh “law and order” punishment of those who have broken the law.

Two recent court decisions–one honorable, one definitely not–make the implicit, explicit.

In North Carolina, a court struck down an effort to keep ex-offenders from casting ballots, holding that the state could not disenfranchise citizens who owe fines, fees, and other debts from a felony conviction. As the linked article about the ruling noted,

Many felon disenfranchisement rules, including North Carolina’s, are rooted in overt white supremacy. After Reconstruction, racist Democrats in the state sought to revoke Black citizens’ suffrage. They accomplished this task, in part, through vague criminal laws that stripped convicted felons of their civil rights—then enforced these laws disproportionately against Black people. North Carolina’s current statute is rooted in an 1877 law spearheaded by a representative who later presided over the lynching of three Black men. At the time, Democrats argued that felon disenfranchisement was necessary to stop “the honest vote of a white man” from being “off-set by the vote of some negro.” Its purpose, alongside other Jim Crow measures like the literacy test, was to “secure white supremacy.”

The law continues to work as intended, as documented in an expert report by University of North Carolina professor Frank R. Baumgartner. Today, Black North Carolinians represent 22 percent of adults and 42 percent of the disenfranchised. Black residents are denied the right to vote at three times the rate of white residents in 44 counties. The state’s disenfranchisement regime targets two groups of people: those on probation or parole, and those who’ve completed their full sentence but still owe court debt. Notably, judges may extend an individual’s probation or send them back to prison because they haven’t paid off these fines and fees.

Meanwhile, in Florida, immediately after a majority of citizens voted to overturn that state’s felony disenfranchisement law, Republican legislators passed a measure that limited that disenfranchisement to those who had managed to pay off all court costs. A federal judge ruled that the restriction was an unconstitutional poll tax. But last Friday, an appeals court narrowly overturned that decision.

The court’s 6-4 ruling dealt a significant blow to civil rights groups that have fought to expand the voter rolls with hundreds of thousands of people who had completed prison time and parole for felony convictions. It also undermined what had seemed like a major referendum victory in 2018 and served as another reminder of the decisive role that a slew of legal cases could play before the presidential election.

There are lessons here, for those of us willing to learn them.

First, racial animus dies hard, and it lurks in places we seldom think to look. Second, the competence and integrity of the men and women who occupy the nation’s bench–who act as custodians of the Constitution and defenders of the Rule of Law–is critically important.

And third, the future of both that bench and this nation depends upon massive turnout for “blue no matter who” on (or preferably before) November 3d.


  1. Unless Trump AND his congressional AND gerrymandered state government enablers are all defeated, these abuses won’t stop in state and federal courts. They have drunk the Trump Kool-aid, and these abuses will continue as long as they are all in office.

  2. Living in Florida during the 2000 presidential election and that questionable recount; the state felony disenfranchisement law was widely used along with claiming voters appearing at the polls were deceased. The state did not provide documentation of either claim and voters had no source, means or time to prove otherwise, making it easy for poll workers to turn away valid voters. There is no Court of Appeals for voters to present their case – IF they can find a valid and documented way to prove a negative. All power lies with the state and those poll workers; no power as a United States citizen and registered voter.

    The final blow, from the federal level, comes when the Electoral College members post their final and deciding vote on the presidency.

    “I’ve recently noted that the efforts to cast doubt on voting by mail are partly motivated by the fact that vote-by-mail defeats many of the time-honored ways to suppress minority votes–and provides a paper trail.”

    So; Trump and DeJoy are on tightly controlled path to destroy the entire United States Postal Service which provides services world-wide, including vote-by-mail, to control the vote and to push delivery services and higher profits to Trump’s crony donors. The life-and-death Covid-19 Pandemic is not even a consideration for the current administration as November 3rd is only days away.

  3. You don’t fight a Civil War with democracy. I’m sure from his past statements, Professor Einstein would be in total agreement.

    You prepare to win by having the best WARNING INTELLIGENCE. But you can’t have that without any STRATEGIC FORESIGHT. So that’s where YOU are, it’s best described as NOWHERE.

    Good luck!

    P.S. I’m afraid Todd will have been proven right all along.

  4. I believe that two of the judges on the Appeals Court were recently put there . Previously, they were on the Florida Supreme Court, and, according to a news account, should have recused themselves from this vote, because of some legal matter that I did not understand. But they decided to vote anyway.

  5. By the way, Biden is plummeting in the polls. Now what? Whose side are YOU on anyway?

    George Floyd or the Two L.A. deputies who were shot? That’s the overriding issue.

  6. Not surprising at all, Pascal.

    Conservative judges will support conservative causes regardless of the law. This is a given from the local courts all the way to SCOTUS. The Democratic judges are expected to follow the law.

    Notice the difference.

    It’s not all that subtle, but it symbolizes the source of the problem across many channels. Liberals want everyone to get along and play fair according to the rules, while conservatives are plotting a civil war or counter-protests to those protesting against Fascism.

    Trump has been told to usher in Marshall Law to clean up the streets from those protesting an “unfair election.” I’m assuming that an unfair election is Trump losing, causing him to disregard all mail-in ballots or call the election early. Whatever Trump does to stay in office will cause protests, and those protestors are in danger.

    Meanwhile, liberals are telling everyone to “unify” and “become friends.” I believe these consist of the “silent majority” that MLK, Jr. spoke about in his speeches, which were more interested in “order” than “justice.”

    I had a FB friend (liberal) tell me that we shouldn’t judge racists because we are all the same human beings with lessons to be learned. She went on to say that if we judge them as racists, then we cannot help them grow.

    While that is a standard spiritual tenet, much like prayer and hope, I don’t think it acknowledges our reality at the moment.

    Our democratic-republic has faded away…we are an Oligarchy which controls the economy, government, and all significant institutions within society. They control the MIC/Surveillance state. They will control things after the November 3rd election. If they wanted Trump gone with his authoritarian style of “leadership,” he’d be gone. As many have said of the arrangement with Russia and Putin — Trump is a useful idiot. He’s allowed the country to move even further to the right.

    Fascism with a strong leader type is one possibility emerging when oligarchs rule with an iron fist. The protests are Antifa or anti-fascism. On the articles around this country about the demonstrations, read the comments from the people. If you cannot project what is going to happen after this election, or before it, then you are living in an imaginary world concocted by our entertainment television networks.

  7. Todd,

    “Meanwhile, liberals are telling everyone to “unify” and “become friends.” I believe these consist of the “silent majority” that MLK, Jr. spoke about in his speeches, which were more interested in “order” than “justice.”

    Quit being so damn honest!

  8. Recommended memoir:

    “The Art of Resistance: My Four Years in the French Underground” by Justus Rosenberg [ninety-nine-year-old professor] (Harper-Collins Publishers, New York, 2020).

    Gerald, you’re just a youngster.

  9. Don’t forget, the Nazi movement exploded out of the RURAL areas not the urban.

    Also, don’t forget what happened in France with Leon Blum the premier of the POPULAR FRONT coalition in France 1936-7. He was forced to resign.

    Unfortunately, Joe Biden has much in common with Blum.

  10. It is very hard to get a decent paying job if you have a felony on your criminal record. This sets people up for failure with paying their fees and fines. We need an economic system that allows people with a felony record to obtain a job so they can pay those fees, fines. Barring that, we need a social entrepeneur or a non profit who can help these people pay those fines.

    I am guessing that in Indiana people with felons don’t have the right to vote. What a convenient way to suppress the voting rights of people of color.

  11. I do not agree with Marv or Todd that we are that far gone and I do not agree more specifically with Marv that Joe is plummeting at the polls. Yes, we are moving in the wrong direction with this fetid piece of protoplasm at the helm, but he enjoys only 35 percent of the total and some of them on the margins are pliable which means that 65 percent or more are for a continuation of democracy, however weak it may seem at the moment with Trump’s attack on it and help from dissident Democrats whose arguments seven weeks away from the election are ill-timed.

    We are in the majority by a some two to one majority, so let’s act like it. No system is perfect, though Nordic social democracy is in my opinion leading the pack. Let’s improve the tattered system we have. D-Day nears. Let’s preserve the framework for improvement and have our disputes on how to improve it for later lest there be no later.

  12. As a Florida resident, I voted to allow ex-cons to vote again before the racist Florida legislature (Republican) came up with an ex post facto new requirement that these ex-cons had to pay fines and other costs imposed by the court in re their incarceration. The 11th Circuit is southern in more ways than one and I would like this one to go to the Supreme Court (if they will hear it). There are a lot of reasons to vote Democratic in this upcoming contest. This (appointment of judges) is one of them.

  13. I’m reminded of the astute observation by John Kampfner, former Editor of the “New Statesman” magazine in his book “Freedom for Sale: Why the World is Trading Democracy for Security (Basic Books, New York, 2010) p. 5-6:

    “In order to succeed in this moral void, the new authoritarians made a pact with their respective peoples. Although the precise rules varied from country to country, the template was always the same. Repression was selective, confined to those who openly challenged the status quo. The number of people who fell into that category was actually very small—journalists who criticized the state or published information that cast the powerful in a negative light, lawyers who defended these agitators, and politicians and others who publicly went out of their way to “cause trouble.” The remaining members of the population could freely travel and could live more or less as they wished, moreover, they could make and spend money—and they gladly did so. A distinction had been created between PUBLIC freedoms and PRIVATE, or privatized freedoms. For many people this way of dividing things up presented an attractive proposition. After all, how many members of the public, going about their daily lives, really wish to challenge the structures of power? [Certainly, not this blog]. Especially, if there is food on the table and cell phones, or perhaps iPods, in their pockets? One can more easily than one realizes be lulled into thinking that one is SUFFICIENTLY free.”

    In other words, “we’ve been screwed.”

  14. Gerald,

    “I do not agree with Marv or Todd that we are that far gone and I do not agree more specifically with Marv that Joe is plummeting at the polls.”

    I understand. But Biden is dropping quickly in the polls and if we have any chance at all of NEUTRALIZING Trump, it is now. At the rate things are going, there won’t be anything for the Democrats to win in November.

    You’ve been wrong on Trump before, as you thought he wasn’t going to win the election. Remember?

  15. Marv, I don’t know what polls you’re looking at but Biden is most definitely not “plummeting in the polls. ” His support has softened a bit nationally and in a few of the swing states such as Florida (which is certainly not a must win state for Biden), but the race has stayed remarkably stable since it began. Meanwhile, Biden’s numbers in states like Arizona and Wisconsin remain very strong. Trump is most definitely the underdog. According to the FiveThirtyEight election model which simulated 40,000 elections, Trump has about a 24% chance of winning. That’s about right.

  16. Robin, in Indiana felons have the right to vote once they are no longer incarcerated. And I don’t believe Indiana has an rules about paying fines or restitution before having those voting rights restored. Though I wouldn’t want to give our legislature any ideas.

  17. Stay the course.

    The atrocities continue to mount as Trump’s incompetence and corruption continue to be unable to meet mounting challenges to the nation. We’ve known since 2016 that the country would be a wreck by now but couldn’t imagine the details that are now apparent.

    Trump continues to promise dysfunctional minorities power. White supremacists, isolationists, neoliberals, evangelicals, self revealed aristocrats, wealth redistributionists, science imposters, authoritarians, all Americans in name only. They follow the power promise blindly hoping some will rub off and allow them to fulfill their dreams of running the show.

    It’s really the Constitution that has always denied them power and now they have united not in any union but as a gang of thugs bent on taking over and imposing what’s best for them on the rest of us.

    Democracy just can’t stand another minute much less four more years of destruction. We have to vote like our future freedom depends on it because it does.

    Fortunately we are in a great position to win every contest. Unfortunately those bent on winning at any cost will employ every deviation from democracy imaginable, and a few that aren’t, to destroy what we were bequeathed and have built. Our advantage is that the confederacy we are against is still and will always be a minority, even together. At one time we took on the mission of getting out the vote but Trump is on our side frightening everyone into crawling to the polls if they have to.

    So stay the course. Help Joe and Kamala all we can. Help all of the Congressional Candidates in every way possible. Help those who need it navigate the registration system and vote in whatever way they can safely.


  18. Paul,

    “Marv, I don’t know what polls you’re looking at but Biden is most definitely not “plummeting in the polls.”

    I’m looking at much more than polls. Its called FORESIGHT, and I’m 100% sure in this special situation, I have much, much, more than you will ever have.

    fore-sight, noun- the ability to predict or the action of predicting what will happen or be needed in the future.

    You’ve been too busy being a Republican.

  19. Pete, “It’s really the Constitution that has always denied them power…”

    Right on, Pete. The Constitution … and reality. Most of them just can’t man-up against reality. Every failure they have experienced in life has come from bucking up against reality, but in their mind that’s reality’s fault, not theirs.

    They whine about the “deep state” and don’t even realize that the true deep state actually exists — it’s the Constitution.

    Reminds me of Beasty the cat I once had. One day when I was coming up the basement stairs, Beasty descended down the stairs in a whirling, spitzing, blurr, so fast and in such an abstract buzzing shape that I couldn’t recognize the trouble. While I was still stumped Beasty roared up the stairs and through the house, apparently having turned into some sort of furry wheel or spinning toy top. In time, Beasty came to a crazed, exhausted rest in the semi-darkness behind the toilet stool. I used a flashlight to see what his trouble was. Poor Beasty; he had gotten one foreleg caught inside his little blue flea collar, and from there his imagination did the rest.

    One end of the flea collar was reality and the buckle end was the Constitution. The fetid darkness behind the toilet stool turns out to be the natural refuge for such confused little beings to sulk. From whence they come they shall return…but not unless the blue wave materializes.

  20. Marv – I was wrong in picking Hillary and wrong in picking Dewey over Truman, too, but my batting average is decent. I’ve picked more winners than losers by far. So here’s another pick – Biden not by a landslide but by a solid win (with the right to amend my choice today if there are shocks to today’s trends, i.e., ranges from a narrow win to a landslide if Florida and Texas go purple). What is your choice as of today, who and by how much? I have been voting every election since Truman and have never voted for a Republican president. I, too, “liked Ike,” but I voted for his opponent both times.

    The vote in seven weeks is more than one about party bias; it’s an existentialist vote which may well determine our future as a relatively free state versus an authoritarian state, a status we may have for Trump and his successors for an indeterminate period if we fail this fall. I have voted in many elections where both candidates were New Dealers from FDR through Carter and ending with Reagan, but this was when Republicans were sane – but still Republicans, a party even then which was opposed to social security, healthcare via government (which was first proposed by Truman), and various other FDR and Truman initiatives. No one is or can be perfect, but if I do say so myself, my political record as a Democrat is unblemished.

    I am not going to criticize my fellow Democrats or engage in other intercene warfare when we are on the cusp of making a decision Good Germans didn’t make in the early 30s, and we can all bear witness to that monumental omission and its tragic results. I repeat, let’s use our time and energy in going for Trump’s political jugular and save our how to govern after we are given the right to do so (lest such consent be withheld).

  21. I’m for Joe Biden, if he has some power if elected. Just being elected won’t accomplish anything, if he is only a “sitting duck.” By our not mobilizing now against Trump, it will only assure that Biden will be a constant TARGET, much, much, more so than Obama ever thought of being.

    By the way, I warned in the June 30th edition of “The Nation” magazine, four months before Barack Obama was first elected President, that he would hit an ICEBERG. That “iceberg” turned out to be the TEA PARTY. I’m just not being misled. That’s all. Not a big deal.

    For Biden, it could be a TSUNAMI if elected.

  22. Marv, while I’m a Republican, I do believe in statistics. Your statement that Biden is “plummeting in the polls,” suggests you have statistical evidence for such a conclusion. I simply pointed out the polls aren’t showing any such “plummeting.” But now you’re saying that’s more of a prediction about what is going to happen, as opposed to a statement about what has already happened. That’s fine.

    For the record, I’d like for the Biden campaign to think the Vice President’s poll numbers are collapsing. As someone who has worked on a number of campaigns, you want the candidate running scared. The last thing you want is an over-confident candidate. That did not work out too well for President Hillary Clinton.

    This morning I did a statistical analysis on ogdenonpolitics which showed that, based on current swing state poll averages, even if you give Trump 60% of the undecided vote (actually the undecided vote usually breaks for the challenger), Trump still loses. As I was writing it, Monmouth University (A+ pollster) released a Florida poll showing Biden up 5 points and with a 26 point lead with Florida Latinos. If Trump loses Florida, it’s all over. Biden does not need Florida to win, but Trump can’t win the EC w/o Florida.

    I am much, much more concerned about Trump shenanigans in the counting of the vote than I am that the polls are wrong. You can’t poll what happens when millions of votes are tossed out as defective, or state legislatures which intervene to assign their electoral votes to a candidate who didn’t win the popular vote of the state.

  23. Gerald,

    “I am not going to criticize my fellow Democrats or engage in other intercene warfare when we are on the cusp of making a decision Good Germans did in the early 30s, and we can all bear witness to that monumental omission and its tragic results.”

    By not taking action NOW you will be making the same mistake the Good Germans did. They miscalculated the DEPTH of the anti-Semitism, the same as you and the rest of this blog, including Sheila, have been doing in the more than five years I’ve been participating in this blog.

    I’ve continually tried to WARN, but to no avail.

  24. The “both sides do it” argument is true —- to an extent. Here’s my take on how far it extends:

    From the 18th to the early 20th century, the Democratic Party was the cradle of racism. Between them, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon changed that. Johnson by getting the Voting Rights Act passed and Nixon by embarking upon the Southern Strategy.

    Prior to that one-two punch, as a rule, southerners simply did. Not. Vote. Republican. Because. PARTY OF LINCOLN! And Democrats were more than happy to welcome southerners into its ranks — whatever their views on race. Aamof, the Blue Dog Democrats were their sop to the South even after the majority outside the south had begun to move away from the outright racism of the 19th century.

    Today, other than, “Smaller government, lower taxes!” the Republican mantra is, “Noun, verb, The Party of Lincoln,” because they’ve proved their racist credentials to the south sufficiently that they’re now able to invoke the name of Lincoln in an attempt to prove to Democrats that they’re not REALLY evil.

    So, I just have to wonder – – – when did Republicans begin suppressing the votes because Race? And when did the Democrats embrace the concept of One-Person-One-Vote?

    Forgive my cynicism but, if the majority of the people refused to vote for Democratic policies, I’d bet all the money in my pockets against all the money in your pockets that the roles would be reversed.

    All that said, I will still park myself with the Democrats every time —– until the Green Party or the American Family Party becomes capable of shepherding any candidate, whether for city council or president, to victory. Till then, not so much because I refuse to waste my vote.

  25. twocrows,

    “So, I just have to wonder – – – when did Republicans begin suppressing the votes because of Race? And when did the Democrats embrace the concept of One-Person-One-Vote?”

    The fight for One-Person-One-Vote was first fought in Dallas during the ’80s and early ’90s, led by Roy Williams and Marvin Crenshaw, both African-Americans, who were the lead plaintiffs in the court case. They were the two insiders while Roger Staubach and I fought from the outside.

    The victory was assured after I filed the report you can view at http://www.TheAlarmReport.info. A few days after the report, the respondents led by the Mayor of Dallas, Annette Strauss, dropped their appeal, and thus One-Person-One -Vote was firmly established in the politics of Dallas, Texas.

    Also, see “Governance by Decree: The Impact of the Voting Rights Act in Dallas” by Professor Ruth P. Morgan (University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas, 2004).

  26. Robin – Paul is absolutely correct that felons who have served their time can vote in Indiana without restrictions. However, as I learned while registering voters in 2008, many are told the lie that they can never vote again. That is yet another way to disenfranchise voters, just slightly less obvious than the reports, in 2000, of police in northern Florida telling African-American voters to go home, that they couldn’t vote.

    As for the courts, the big sin of Democrats is their neglect of the courts; the big sin of “liberals” is their lack of attention to the courts; the big sin of the “women’s movement” is believing that it was all settled after Roe v. Wade. Now we are paying.

    Since Nixon, Republicans have mostly appointed young ideologues; Democrats have appointed judges that were “good, middle of the road”, “non-controversial” judges. Liberal judges need not apply. As Republican appointed Appellate Judge Posner stated, each Supreme Court appointment has been at least a little to the right of the person being replaced, even when Democrats did the appointing. (He also said “I’ve become less conservative since the Republican Party started becoming goofy.”, so you can’t pigeon-hole him based on the fact the Reagan appointed him)

  27. Len,

    “That is yet another way to disenfranchise voters, just slightly less obvious than the reports, in 2000, of police in northern Florida telling African-American voters to go home, that they couldn’t vote.”

    Thanks for pointing us out. My hometown, Jacksonville, is a special place. That’s why Trump picked it for the Republican convention. It’s much more southern Georgia than northern Florida. I also suggest it’s the most racist city in America. That’s our claim to fame.

    Interestingly, I was the protege of the area’s “Kingpin,” Ed Ball the brother-in-law of Alfred I. Dupont, who in turn was the brother of Lamont Dupont, who headed up the attempted Fascist takeover in the mid-’30s. This family should properly be labeled: OLIGARCHIC GROUND ZERO.

Comments are closed.