We knew this would happen. In 2013, when the Supreme Court decided to invalidate major provisions of the Voting Rights Act, it dealt a major blow to voter protections and many states have been feeling the impact ever since—particularly in the South. Civil rights advocates warned that this would have a devastating impact on the elderly, students, and people of color.
Since then, we’ve watched North Carolina wage a seemingly endless war to try and counter repressive laws designed to limit black people’s access to the ballot, though those laws have been blocked by the Supreme Court. And now there’s news about a case in Hancock County, Georgia, where election officials have just settled a lawsuit in which they allegedly denied voting rights to dozens of voters, most of whom were black of course, just before a mayoral election between a black and a white candidate.
Hancock County Board of Elections members maintain that they weren't targeting or trying to intimidate black voters by sending sheriff's deputies to summon people to appear before them and prove they lived in the county.
Board members said they were complying with Georgia law, which allows any voter to challenge another's eligibility, and requires that a sheriff or deputy deliver documents in a voter registration challenge, said their lawyer, Mike O'Quinn.
Any voter can challenge another’s eligibility? Sounds pretty asinine. But apparently its not uncommon, and there are many states which allow voter challenges.
(Too bad we didn’t know this on Election Day 2016 so we could challenge the eligibility of all those Trump voters out there.) In the case of Hancock County, sadly, the methods used to purge voters from the voting rolls would have required federal approval if the Voting Rights Act was still intact.
The methods they used would have required federal pre-approval if the Supreme Court hadn't struck down provisions of the Voting Rights Act two years earlier. The justices ruled that federal oversight is no longer necessary, but advocates say purges of voter registration lists remain common across the South, particularly in rural and poor areas. [...]
O'Quinn acknowledged that the board failed to consider the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, which applies to Georgia and 43 other states. Both state and federal law allow the removal of registered voters who move away from the voting district. But federal law requires authorities to wait until the voter hasn't voted in two federal elections and either confirms moving or fails to respond to mailed requests.
Instead, the suit said, Hancock County officials took immediate action to remove voters whose eligibility was challenged.
As part of the settlement, three-quarters of the people who were removed from the voting list remain eligible and will have their voting rights restored. And while the Board of Elections can say that this was not a plot to target black voters, it certainly looks like that’s exactly what they did. Especially since the lawsuit maintains that board members and their friends challenged the eligibility of 187 people, right before a slate of white candidates sought to unseat black candidates. In a town of 988 voters, they deemed nearly 5 percent ineligible to vote. And again, for extra emphasis, nearly all of them were black.
Of course you can imagine that with this kind of racist corruption, the result was that the white candidate for mayor won the election. But in the end, that turned out to be a bust.
The white mayoral candidate, R. Allen Haywood, won that November, defeating incumbent Mayor Williams Evans Jr., who is black. But a judge ruled Haywood ineligible to take office due to a felony conviction, and ordered a new election that Evans won.
Now this is actually the type of voting fraud and corruption that the Trump administration really should be concerned about. But since we know common sense will never prevail in this White House and we can never count on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to care about anyone’s (let alone black people’s) voting rights, let’s hope court interventions will do the important work of making sure marginalized people have access to the ballot.