Voter suppression is a carefully planned strategy that is gnawing at the fabric of our democracy. It is also on the rise across the country. Although federal law mandates some regular maintenance of voter rolls to ensure that ineligible voters are not on the rolls, it is being used as a Republican strategy to deregister voters—primarily youth and people of color.
Republicans hope this will continue to be a winning strategy in 2020. It is up to us to identify and help these “deregistered” voters become active voters again. This is Indivisible West Marin’s game plan for winning elections in 2020.
Working with the Center for Common Ground and its “Reclaim Our Vote” initiative, our strategy is to expand the electorate, giving more and more people—especially young people and people of color—access to the polls. As the Republicans work to limit people’s access to voting, expanding the electorate is our path to preserving democracy.
Almost every day we hear new stories about the purging of voter registration rolls—in Georgia, Ohio, Wisconsin, Texas and even California. Benign maintenance becomes an abuse of our democracy when voters are deregistered based on inaccurate reporting of felony convictions, unfounded claims of voter fraud, or a voter’s failure to return a voter notification card to verify his or her address.
This is not an aberration, but a well-planned strategy to reduce access to voting. Between 2014 and 2016, states across the country removed almost 16 million voters from the rolls. That is nearly 4 million more than were removed between 2006 and 2008.
Georgia recently took 300,000 inactive voters off the registration lists. Around 22,000 of these voters have already been reinstated because they were taken off due to “errors” in identification.
Despite concerns about accurate data, a court in Wisconsin has ordered the Wisconsin Elections Commission to immediately remove from the rolls about 234,000 voters who allegedly have moved.
Ohio planned to purge 235,000 voters a few months ago but decided to first publicly release the names to avoid removing eligible voters. After public scrutiny, it was determined that 20 percent of the names on the purge list should not have been there.
Texas tried to purge people who were in the country “illegally” but was stopped by a federal court on the grounds that the state was relying on stale and faulty information.
Even in California, the maintenance of voter rolls has become more aggressive as a result of a lawsuit targeting Los Angeles County, which prompted that county to begin removing as many as 1.5 million voters from the rolls.
For the past year, Indivisible West Marin has been working with Reclaim Our Vote to contact voters taken off the rolls in a number of key states. We do this by using phone numbers and addresses supplied by Reclaim Our Vote, calling and writing voters to let them know they need to re-register and vote.
This work has significantly increased voter registration and voter turnout by people of color in states with long, ugly histories of voter suppression. By expanding the electorate and contacting former voters that many campaigns choose to ignore, Reclaim Our Vote has played a major role in helping flip elections from red to blue, most recently in Virginia.
We are now focused on Texas, calling and writing into specific congressional districts which have both high numbers of voters who have been taken off the rolls and large communities of color.
Reclaim Our Vote is a great partner organization for Indivisible West Marin. It works with multiracial coalitions, strategically targets voters of color, and collaborates with grassroots organizations on the ground to complement the long-distance work we do.
Are you discouraged and demoralized about the state of the upcoming elections? Are you waiting until it is closer to the elections to start working? Please don’t wait. The time for action is now. Super Tuesday primaries are coming on March 3—only eight weeks away! The more people vote in the primary, the more people are likely to vote in the general election in November.
Join Indivisible West Marin to postcard and phone bank. See our newsletter on our Facebook page for times and locations, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Andrea Miller, a co-founder of the Center for Common Ground and the strategist behind Reclaim Our Vote, will speak at the Dance Palace Community Center at 7 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 24. Admission is free. Come and hear how you can join our movement to fight voter suppression and win in 2020.
Mary Morgan, a Point Reyes Station resident, is a member of Mainstreet Moms and a co-founder of Indivisible West Marin.