Voter suppression has been an ugly part of the American fabric for our entire history. Slavery, of course, was the ultimate method of suppressing votes, but it was just one example among many. Long-standing misogynistic societal norms, for example, kept women in the home and away from the polls for more than 300 years after Jamestown was settled. And let’s not forget that our Founding Fathers, many of whom married into wealth, also intended to keep non-land-holding, white males out of the loop when it came to voting. Theoretically, the passage of the 15th Amendment in 1870 (which gave every citizen the right to vote), was supposed to end all forms of voter suppression, but Jim Crow got around that by implementing poll taxes and literacy tests as a means of disenfranchising poor whites, former slaves and Native Americans.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were supposed to end voter suppression of African-Americans once and for all, but it didn’t end voter intimidation, including the kind where white thugs would stand outside the polls and look imposing. It also didn’t foresee the extent to which racist politicians would gerrymander districts to dilute the black vote and, thus, limit the number of minorities who could be elected to state and federal offices. In recent years, Republican lawmakers in North Carolina have been particularly brazen in their attempts to suppress the black vote, including eliminating polling sites, reducing the number of early voting days, and supporting a photo voter ID.
Earlier this month, the North Carolina legislature was ordered to once again re-draw our state’s legislative districts in a way that would not unfairly dilute Democrats and minorities from voting, so, at the very least, our judicial system is attempting to provide relief for disenfranchised voters. But now a whole new kind of voter suppression has reared its ugly head, and it has the potential to affect a wider population than any political maneuver we’ve ever seen before. As of last week, the Republican Party in at least four states (South Carolina, Nevada, Arizona and Kansas) announced they would suspend their 2020 presidential primaries and caucuses. Why? So that party officials can meet behind closed doors and award all of their convention delegates to Donald Trump. This despicable strategy prevents Republican challengers from getting on the ballot because there will be no ballot for them to get on. Moreover, these GOP officials are not in the least bit timid about admitting their motive. As far back as last December, South Carolina Party Chair Drew McKissick told the Washington Examiner that he would cancel the state’s 2020 primary if President Trump should face a serious challenge from a member of his own party.
As I noted in a previous column, canceling primaries is not a new concept, but it is only supposed to be done when there is an incumbent President with no intra-party challengers. The South Carolina Democratic Party, for example, canceled their primaries in 1996 and 2012 when no other Democratic candidate emerged to challenge Bill Clinton and Barack Obama for a second term. In contrast, McKissick and his Republican counterparts in other states are preventing declared Republican candidates from being able to even compete with Trump. Concurrently, they are also effectively suppressing the votes of their own people, and that is one for the history books.
To date, three legitimate Republican challengers have announced their candidacy, and, given the seriousness of this situation, those candidates must now join with voters in the offending states to involve legal counsel and the ACLU in proving that the Republican party is engaged in systematic voter suppression. Absent that, it’s possible we could see the cancellation of Republican primaries in all 50 states, and if that happens, Trump will have a coronation instead of a convention.
Jim Longworth is the host of Triad Today, airing on Saturdays at 7:30 a.m. on ABC45 (cable channel 7) and Sundays at 11 a.m. on WMYV (cable channel 15).