Voters in two states, in particular, need to act fast if they want to participate in the 2020 election, according to recent rulings that threaten to remove from voter rolls more than a half-million people who, if history is any indication, are low income and/or people of color.
A judge in Georgia ruled on Monday afternoon that the state can invalidate voter registration for approximately 300,000 people, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. That news came on the heels of a court in Wisconsin ruling that would eliminate about 234,000 people from the voters roll there. The fact that the apparent voter suppression efforts in two key states were coming less than a year ahead of a crucial presidential election enraged activists who have been fighting in vain to keep the voters’ registrations active in the face of laws that encouraged their purging.
In Georgia, the voter suppression efforts were reminiscent of the accusations against the state that it removed 700,000 voters from its rolls ahead of last year’s midterm elections. In that case, the purged registrations arguably prevented Stacey Abrams from becoming the nation’s first Black woman governor and handed the election to then-Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, whose office oversaw the election in a clear conflict of interest. Purging the state’s voter rolls under its controversial “use it or lose it” law — which strikes names of voters declared “inactive” for not participating in recent elections — has a world of implications in the 2020 election.
President Donald Trump barely won Georgia in 2016 by just a 5 percent margin. Despite not knowing political affiliations of the voters at risk from being removed, purging the rolls could give a greater advantage to a candidate next year.
The Associated Press reported earlier Monday that Fair Fight, Abrams’ organization, successfully stopped a federal judge from approving the planned purge. But that stoppage was overturned after U.S. District Judge Steve Jones, who the AJC reported “will further consider the issue Thursday, ruled on Monday afternoon it could proceed.
A separate ruling in Wisconsin on Friday was set to allow 234,000 names of registered voters to be stricken from the rolls under a similar law in the Dairy State. Wisconsin was one of the three states credited with handing Trump his victory in 2016. A voters’ advocacy group there on Monday slammed the decision to allow the voter purge to move forward.
“We are alarmed that one decision could strip away the voting rights of 234,000 Wisconsinites — simply because these voters did not respond to a single mailer. Voter purges pose a distinct threat to our democracy, causing disproportionate harm to the very voters who have long been disenfranchised: people of color, low income voters and those who move frequently. This flawed ruling doesn’t provide enough time or notice for voters to comply,” Shauntay Nelson, Wisconsin State Director of All Voting is Local, said in a brief statement emailed to NewsOne on Monday. “We support the Wisconsin Elections Commission’s efforts to ensure voters are not wrongfully removed from the rolls. We also support all efforts at the state and municipal levels to use innovative ways to contact voters beyond insufficient U.S. Mail.”
The reports out of Georgia and Wisconsin came months after a report found that more than 30 million voters were removed from voter rolls across the country over the past five years. The report from the Brennan Center for Justice “found that between 2016 and 2018, counties with a history of voter discrimination have continued purging people from the rolls at much higher rates than other counties.”