On his national “thank you” tour of states that voted Republican, President-elect Donald Trump gave a shout-out to an unlikely group. He claimed at an event in Michigan that African-Americans came through for him “big league,” and those that didn’t vote were “almost as good” in helping him win.
It was a bizarre claim, because exit polls showed that nationally, Hillary Clinton won African-American voters 89 percent to Trump’s 8 percent.
But coming after the first presidential election since the Voting Rights Act was gutted by the Supreme Court, Trump’s claim is not only bizarre, it’s Orwellian. Was he signaling to his supporters that they had done well in suppressing Democratic votes?
It’s hard to know with Trump. As unscripted as he appears, he often laces his speech with music to the ears of the “alt-right,” a white nationalist movement
We don’t know for sure how many Americans were disenfranchised on Election Day. Some civil rights groups — the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights — say that Republican-backed voter suppression laws probably helped tip the election in Trump’s favor.
No one should vote who doesn’t have that right. However, there’s been almost zero evidence of voting fraud, while suppression efforts around the country have put disproportionate pressure on voters who traditionally vote Democratic: minorities, the poor, college students and other young voters.
Fourteen states had new voting restrictions this year for the first time in a presidential election, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU School of Law. These include stricter voter ID laws, more stringent registration requirements, reduced early voting and greater hurdles to restoring voting rights to people with criminal convictions.
On the face of it, these measures look like well-intentioned efforts to safeguard our democracy and the voting rights of citizens. But look a little deeper to witness how these rules are employed.
In Alabama, a driver’s license or special picture ID is required at polling places. Before Election Day, eight counties with the highest percentages of nonwhite voters closed driver’s license bureaus.
In Arizona, Republican election officials in Maricopa County reduced the number of polling places to 60 from 200 in 2012 and 400 in 2008. More than half the county’s population is nonwhite, and one-third is Hispanic.
In North Carolina, citizen activists calling themselves the Voter Integrity Project petitioned to purge voter rolls. They sent mail to addresses in Beaufort, Cumberland and Moore counties, and tracked those that came back as undeliverable. In August and September, activists submitted some 4,500 names to the county elections boards, which canceled the voters’ registrations.
Thousands of North Carolinians who tried to vote found they had been taken off the rolls, and a disproportionate number were black, said the NAACP, which has filed a federal lawsuit.
U.S. District Judge Loretta Biggs called the purge “insane,” and something out of the Jim Crow era.
Yet, Trump amped up his supporters’ fears with claims — wholly discredited — that “millions” voted illegally in November. Two days after he tweeted that, Michigan Republicans introduced legislation to tighten the state’s already strict voter ID law.
Trump nation is ready to act on his inferences, even without evidence. How frightening is that?
Anne Michaud is the interactive editor for Newsday Opinion.