Beware of voter suppression bills!

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Paul Weyrich, founder of ALEC, on voting and voters (photo by DonkeyHotey [CC 2.0] via Flickr)
Paul Weyrich, founder of ALEC, on voting and voters (photo by DonkeyHotey [CC 2.0] via Flickr)

Scotland Yard Detective Gregory: “Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”
Sherlock Holmes: “To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”
Gregory: “The dog did nothing in the night-time.”
Holmes: “That was the curious incident.”

This famous quote, found in the short story “Silver Blaze” in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, has become shorthand for the occasion when what doesn’t happen is more important than what does. What was important in the short story “Silver Blaze” was that, when the eponymous racehorse was stolen, the guard dog didn’t raise a peep; in other words, the dog recognized the thief.

So it is with voter suppression in the 2019 General Assembly. The fact that there’s no pre-filed bill spells trouble.

In every other Republican legislature, after benighting the state with Right to Work and other anti-worker legislation, charter schools, tax cuts for the 1 percent, and anti-abortion extremism, the G.O.P. then passes legislation to make it harder to vote.

  • In Ohio, the legislature reduced the number of early-voting days and eliminated same-day registration.
  • Not to be outdone, North Carolina eliminated same-day voter registration and pre-registration for high-school students, imposed a stringent photo voter ID law, cut early voting from 17 days to 10 days—laws the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said were designed to “target African-Americans with almost surgical precision” for disenfranchisement.
  • Wisconsin, Texas, Kansas, Tennessee, Florida, and other Republican-led states have also made it more difficult to vote, with voter turnout cut by 2 to 3 percent in those states. To show the anti-democratic intent of such laws, Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel bragged that it was voter suppression that gave Donald Trump his tiny sliver of victory in Wisconsin.

So, if Republicans have introduced voter suppression legislation in every other state they’ve taken over, why not here? I think it’s because they were waiting until this short session, and that the legislation—like last year’s so-called “sewer bill” that would have decimated public pensions in this state—will pop up in the figurative, if not literal, dead of night and be passed with as little fanfare as possible.

This means we have to be ultra-vigilant. Those of us opposed to voter disenfranchisement need to make the point that although only one party is known as the Democratic Party, all Americans are supposed to believe in democracy.

Do all you can do to prevent voter suppression in the Bluegrass State. Warn your family and friends. Slap an “I ♥ democracy!” bumper sticker on your car. Watch the news coming out of Frankfort.

And especially, let your state representative and state senator know that they need to believe in democracy, too, by expanding voting – not suppressing it.

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Ivonne Rovira
Ivonne Rovira, a teacher and an activist, is the research director for the statewide organization Save Our Schools Kentucky. Ivonne previously worked for The Miami Herald, the now defunct (and greatly lamented) Miami News, and The Associated Press. All three of her children are proud products of Jefferson County Public Schools.