Editor’s Note: We continue to cover the aftermath of the general election, and wanted to share this post from the League of Women Voters.
This year, and for several years, there has been a concerted effort in many states to stop some voters from voting, or to make it much harder for them to participate. Since the Supreme Court rolled back key provisions of the Voting Rights Act in 2013, elected officials have purged existing voters from the rolls, made cuts to early voting, reduced polling places, put in place strict voter photo ID laws and levied onerous voter registration restrictions.
“We recognize the importance of a peaceful transfer of power as a hallmark of a functioning democracy, and we recognize that we have one of the best election systems and democracies in the world, but we also need to say it out loud: This election was rigged. And it needs to stop,” said Chris Carson, president of the League of Women Voters of the United States.
“It is clear that this kind of voter suppression could impact the outcome of elections,” Carson continued. “We may never know whether the efforts to block voter participation changed the outcome in any particular race – but we must be on guard for the future.”
Tight margins in some key elections show that suppression may play a role.
In Wisconsin, President-elect Trump beat Secretary Clinton by roughly 27,000 votes, however according to federal court, 300,000 registered voters lacked the proper photo ID. In North Carolina, the closest governor’s race the country has seen in more than a decade is still unresolved, with fewer than 8,000 votes separating the current governor from his challenger.
“We are not talking about vigilante voter intimidation,” said Carson. “We are talking about official, legal voter suppression by state legislatures and election officials.”
Carson pointed especially to the work of Kris Kobach, the Secretary of State of Kansas, who engaged in a multi-year effort to stop eligible Kansans from voting. Laws drafted by Kobach required restrictive documentary proof of citizenship to register by mail and at the DMV. Despite defeats in federal and state courts, Kobach still pushed to keep eligible citizens from voting.
“Some try to justify voter suppression as just politics as usual – trying to ensure their candidates will win,” Carson said. “There is no excuse for erecting unnecessary barriers to voting. It is not the American way.”
In 2016, the League worked to make sure voters impacted by new laws were aware of these restrictions. In Ohio, the League made thousands of phone calls to inform voters about that state’s purge. In Virginia, the League conducted outreach so voters knew about the new ID law. In Kansas, the League worked to register voters and provide them information. Across the country League members volunteered as non-partisan poll observers.
“Every eligible citizen should vote and the election system should help them participate rather than standing in the way,” said Carson. “The League of Women Voters will continue our work to expand participation in the election process and work to give a voice to all Americans,” she concluded.
The League is gearing up to take a stand in statehouses and courtrooms nationwide to ensure no voters are left behind.