- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 24, 2022

Black House Democrats are preemptively challenging the results of the November elections, saying they will be tainted by the suppression of minority voters in Republican-run states because Congress failed to rewrite the country’s election laws.

They said new election laws in several Republican-run states will sway the midterms in the party’s favor at the expense of Black and Hispanic voters, who typically favor Democrats.

“Voters will be suppressed this election, no question,” said G.K. Butterfield, a North Carolina Democrat who is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus. “States are passing discriminatory laws that will definitely result in not just the suppression of the African American vote, but also voters who tend to vote with the Democratic parties.”

Rep. Marilyn Strickland, Washington Democrat and another caucus member, called for immediate federal action on loosening voting laws.

“There is clearly an effort to suppress the vote and make it harder for people to vote,” Mrs. Strickland said. “We definitely need some legislation at the federal level to address this.”

Their alarms about a rigged or stolen election echo claims by former President Donald Trump and other Republicans about rampant voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election.

Democrats have used the former president’s unproven claims to paint their Republican colleagues as insurrectionists who helped fuel the Capitol riot last year through the “big lie” that President Biden stole the election.

Aside from complaints about voting laws, Democrats face a difficult election environment this year. The president’s party almost always sustains losses in midterm elections, and Democrats are saddled with Mr. Biden’s low approval ratings and a host of crises, including runaway inflation and a crime wave.

The Democratic lawmakers who warned of voter suppression said shorter early voting periods, reduced polling hours and stricter requirements for mail-in ballots disproportionately deter minorities from voting.

Requests of the lawmakers and the Congressional Black Caucus for data to back up the claims went unanswered.

Rep. Henry C. “Hank” Johnson Jr., Georgia Democrat, said Republicans are trying to rig elections through voter suppression efforts because they believe Mr. Trump was the true victor of the 2020 election.

“They look at who votes Democratic and then they try to focus their suppression efforts on various demographics, and it’s definitely intentional,” Mr. Johnson said. “It’s done in response to the Big Lie and a false premise to tighten rules and target those rules to those who vote primarily for Democrats, in an effort to win the 2022 and ’24 elections.”

Voting laws have fueled a partisan battlefield on Capitol Hill and in state legislatures over what Democrats call “voting rights” versus what Republicans refer to as “election integrity.”

Democrats have made election reform a central part of their agenda. Their attempts to enact election legislation have failed twice in the 100-member Senate, which is split 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans.

The Democratic-run House last year passed a more than 800-page page bill, dubbed the For the People Act, which failed to muster the 60 votes needed to survive in the upper chamber.

The bill would have required automatic registration for voters, forced states to adopt same-day registration and expanded mail-in voting while overriding voter ID requirements in the 35 states with such laws.

The John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which passed the House this year, also died in a Republican filibuster in the Senate. It would have expanded early voting and secured Election Day as a federal holiday.

Congress’ inability to pass such changes has prompted the 58-member Congressional Black Caucus, made up only of Democrats, to draft executive order proposals for Mr. Biden to consider loosening voting laws before November.

A spokesman for the caucus said “nothing is off the table” when it comes to changing election laws.

Republicans, meanwhile, are disputing claims that suppression efforts are at play and are defending voting laws in Republican-led states such as Florida, Georgia and Texas.

A Republican National Committee spokesman argued that election turnout in Florida, Georgia and Texas have increased since they enacted voting measures tightening the rules.

“All of [those states] have held elections since passing those laws,” the spokesman said. “Across the board, elections are running smoothly and turnout is going up.”

The Georgia law, which Democrats dub “Jim Crow 2.0,” shortened the time frame people have to request and return mail-in ballots, prohibited election officials from sending absentee ballots to voters unless requested, added new ID requirements for mail-in ballots, and reduced the number of ballot drop boxes for absentee ballots.

Rep. Byron Donalds, Florida Republican, accused blue states of having tighter voting rules than his own and said the idea of voter suppression was “ridiculous.”

“This whole talk of people being disenfranchised or blocked from voting just simply is not true,” Mr. Donalds said. “If there’s an issue of people voting in certain states, then look at New York law and Delaware law, where it’s significantly harder to vote than it is in Florida or Georgia or Texas.”

Mr. Donalds, one of two Black Republicans in the House, said he was denied membership in the Congressional Black Caucus because he objected to certifying Mr. Biden’s victory in the 2020 election. The caucus rejected that assertion.

Mr. Butterfield said states’ restrictions on voters to limited hours and reducing mail-in balloting will disproportionately affect voters of color in low-income communities, whether they are targeted or not.

“In African American communities in particular, which is the thing that I’m most familiar with, a lot of voters do not have transportation,” Mr. Butterfield said. “They don’t have the luxury of being able to vote during specific times, and so absent and early voting is essential.”

The RNC staffer disputed Mr. Butterfield’s claim by citing the turnout numbers in local elections.

“It’s kind of condescending to assume that African American voters would have trouble getting an ID or getting to the polls,” the staffer said. “The numbers really just disprove that.”

Voting laws remain a high interest for Blacks, according to a March poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

The poll found that 57% of Black Americans, 38% of Hispanics and 29% of White Americans said more needs to be done to enhance racial equality when it comes to voting. The poll surveyed 1,289 U.S. adults from Feb. 18-21. It had an error margin of 3.7%.

A poll from Monmouth University found that the vast majority of Americans support voter ID requirements. The poll, which surveyed 810 adults from June 9-14, found that 80% supported voter IDs despite Democrats’ claims that they put barriers on minority voters. The poll had an error margin of 3.5 percentage points.

• Mica Soellner can be reached at msoellner@washingtontimes.com.

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