If you can’t ‘beat em,’ ‘cheat em!’
With GOP-led voter suppression bills spreading around Red States like wild-fire, Around the Block asks, are they really going as far as they should?
Well, it’s official — my adopted state of Florida has joined a growing list of Republican-led states in making it more difficult to vote.
The Florida law, signed by the current heart throb of the right, Governor Ron DeSantis, is particularly egregious. During a bill-signing ceremony in West Palm Beach broadcast exclusively by Fox News, DeSantis praised the Florida legislation as the “strongest election integrity measures in the country.” He said this despite the fact that there was no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election.
(By the way, in case you’re rubbing your eyes after reading “broadcast exclusively by Fox News,” stop rubbing. Yes it’s true. The only media outlet allowed to cover DeSantis’ historic affront to democracy was Fox News. Apparently, all the so-called “fake news outlets” including all Florida local broadcast stations not affiliated with Fox, were barred entry. Guess Ronnie didn’t want to take any tough questions.)
Among the key points of Florida’s new (non)-voting laws:
- Limits the use of drop boxes;
- Adds more identification requirements for those requesting absentee ballots;
- Requires voters to request an absentee ballot for each election, rather than receive them automatically through an absentee voting list;
- Limits who could collect and drop off ballots;
- Further empowers partisan observers during the ballot-counting process.
But in an astonishingly unprecedented act of contrition, Florida Republicans did eliminate legislative language that threatened to ban giving voters food or drink while near a polling place!
The bill was passed and signed despite DeSantis’ praise of Florida’s handling of last November’s elections. And despite the direct and dire pleas from Florida election officials: Passing the state’s new voting bill would be a “grave security risk,” “unnecessary” and a “travesty.” The restrictions imposed by the new law, they warned, “would make it harder to vote and hurt confidence in the balloting process.”
As most of you know, soon after the Florida signing, Texas snapped into action, where Republicans are brushing aside objections from corporate titans and moving on a vast election bill that would be among the most severe in the nation, including:
- Greatly empowering partisan poll watchers;
- Prohibiting election officials from mailing out absentee ballot applications;
- And imposing strict punishments for those who provide assistance outside the lines of what is permissible.
Oh yeah, did I mention Arizona where the GOP-controlled Senate is conducting an apparently illegal audit of the 2020 election results in Maricopa County (Phoenix) despite the fact that multiple audits since November determined that vote was tallied accurately. And wouldn’t you know it, there’s a Florida connection.
Arizona state Senate Republicans have hired a little-known Florida-based firm called Cyber Ninjas to run the audit, a decision that critics say is a red flag. Cyber Ninjas has no experience in elections. And yes, I kid you not, they picked a company called Cyber Ninjas!
The outrage goes on. According to the New York Times, Iowa and Georgia have already passed bills that not only impose new restrictions but grant those states’ legislatures greater control over the electoral process. And Ohio, another state under complete Republican control, introduced a new omnibus voting bill that would further limit drop boxes in the state, limit ballot collection processes and reduce early in-person voting by one day, while also making improvements to access such as an online absentee ballot request portal and automatic registration at motor vehicle offices.
Why are they doing this? Because the fact is Republicans win when voter turnout is smaller, particularly when the rules make it more difficult for traditionally Democratic voters, like people of color, to vote.
But are these GOP-dominated states doing enough to ensure that their voter suppression efforts will really succeed? Or, in other words, if you’re going to cheat, go full Monty and really cheat.
For advice on this, I contacted one of the most notorious Republican election law firms, Dewey, Cheatem and Howe, to get their perspective.
In my call with senior partner Chester Cheatem, I learned that no, governors and legislators in Red states haven’t even scratched the surface. In fact, Mr. Cheatem told me, if asked, DC&H can put together a sure fire voter suppression plan that would guarantee Republican dominance for years to come.
Not wanting to give away the store without the appropriate compensation ($5,000/hour, 1,000 hour minimum), Mr. Cheatem did provide a small sample of DC&H’s recommendations. But first, Mr. Cheatem did tell me, “Contrition be damned! Absolutely no water, food or any assistance to voters on line — except for 65+ white voters with no college education; just to be sure, we’re working on a ‘no-college’ passport for those folks.”
Some other Cheatem points:
- If drop boxes are to be allowed, only one per state will be permitted. But the location of that one drop box will not be revealed;
- Mail-in ballots requests from Democratic plurality districts can only be made by mail and only on one specified day. Any mail-ballot requests not postmarked on that one day will not be fulfilled. Requests from Republican plurality districts can be made anytime up to one-week before an election;
- Returned mail-in ballots from election districts with a Democratic plurality must be received exactly 72 hours prior to the closing of polls; to be fair, there will be a +/- one hour concession. Returned mail-in ballots from Republican can be received up to three days after the polls close;
- Voters voting in person have to make their own way to their polling place. Their own way means driving themselves in a private car, using public transportation, or walking. Voters arriving at polling places using third party transportation will be punished to the full extent of the law (a law that DC&H is drafting for GOP-controlled legislatures as we speak);
- Poll watchers will be recruited by the local election board — half Republican appointees, half Democratic. Republican appointees will be provided with brown shirts and billy clubs. There will be no dress code for Democratic appointees, although they must be retirees over the age of 75.
Since I was not paying him, Mr. Cheatem stopped at this point. But he did leave me with one request: “I’m not sure how many Republican readers Around the Block has, but here at Dewey, Cheatem & Howe, we’re really counting on you to get the word out. With these little ideas as teasers, we’re hoping that 2022 will be the greatest year in GOP and DC&H history!”