Voter Suppression: Did it Work?

By Shani Saxon Nov 07, 2018

Reports of widespread voter suppression and corruption were rampant during this year’s midterm elections, and it looks like Republicans were somewhat rewarded for their misdeeds.

In Georgia, where the gubernatorial race is so close that it will possibly result in a run-off between Republican Brian Kemp and Democrat Stacy Adams, it’s hard not to blame the tight race on the Republican team’s suppressive tactics. Kemp, a self-proclaimed “politically incorrect conservative,” refused to step aside as Georgia’s secretary of state, a role that requires him to oversee elections—while running his own gubernatorial campaign. As Vox reports, Kemp’s team “put 53,000 voter registrations on hold, nearly 70 percent of which are for Black voters, by using an error-prone ‘exact match’ system, which stops voter registrations if there are any discrepancies, down to dropped hyphens, with other government records.”

Abrams, who says she will not leave the race until all votes are counted, publicly asked Kemp to resign as secretary of state leading up to the election, as did former President Jimmy Carter. “In order to foster voter confidence in the upcoming election, which will be especially important if the race ends up very close, I urge you to step aside and hand over to a neutral authority the responsibility of overseeing the governor’s election," Carter wrote.

Eyebrows were further raised in Georgia on Tuesday (November 6) when voters complained of long lines, chaos at polling places and broken voting machines in areas that mainly serve African-American voters. “If you’re going to play tricks anywhere, you’re going to do it here,” said Gabe Okoye, chairman of the Gwinnett County Democratic Party, in an interview with The Washington Post

The Senate race in North Dakota was marred by the Republican strategy to cripple Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp, a move that involved changing voter ID laws so that thousands of Native Americans in the area wouldn’t be able to cast ballots. The new law required everyone to show proof of residential addresses, even though Native Americans in North Dakota don’t use them. As Vox reorts, “the move prevented as many as thousands of Native Americans from voting since many of them live on reservations and, as a result, use P.O. boxes instead of residential addresses.” Heitkamp’s bid for the Senate wasn’t able to survive the new law, despite local activists’ work to overcome the obstacle. 

It’s not guaranteed that voter suppression—which has historically impacted people of color—was the only reason Republicans won in certain districts, but it likely helped. President and CEO of the NAACP Derrick Johnson wants people to understand that, while “grassroots activism” and “women and people of color” made major strides during the midterms, “voter suppression played a huge role in the silencing of the political voices of the Black community and all people of color.” Johnson continued in a statement, “We will continue to resist attacks on our communities, will fight for fundamental structural changes to our political system to restore the balance of power back to the people, and we will propel a visionary movement in 2020.”