Voting Rights 6

By Hubert Plummer posted 09-25-2020 04:45 PM


As we approach one month until the general election the attacks on voting continue.  Here are a few more examples of what Republicans are doing to prevent democrat voters from voting.


Tennessee has quietly enacted a new law ramping up the punishment for peaceful protesting to include the loss of voting rights.[i] For example, if protesters set themselves up on government property and in the process do anything that can be construed as “camping”, they are guilty of a class E felony, facing penalty up to 6 years in prison.  What is camping?  Well, the statute says “making or preparing to make a fire, doing any digging or earth breaking, or sleeping or making preparations to sleep”[ii] is illegal camping.  This law goes into effect October 1, 2020.  This was signed into law with no announcement by the state.  Demonstrators regularly pitch tents to provide shelter for protesters and medical needs.  Clearly this is intended to punish protesters by revoking their right to vote.

Tennessee has a few other obvious obstacles to voting.  All mail in ballots go through a signature verification process.  If there is some question as to the validity of the signature, the ballot is discarded and the voter is not given an opportunity to correct the signature.  Many other states allow the voter a chance to correct any errors.

It is also a felony in Tennessee for anyone other than an election official to distribute absentee ballot applications.  These applications are freely available on the state’s website, but this law prevents voter registration advocates from providing the applications to the public.  Another obstacle is a rule the requires first time mail-in voters to appear at a board of election to show a legal ID before they can vote by mail.[iii]


Ohio Republicans are also working hard to restrict voting. With the attacks on the postal service many voters will rely on ballot drop boxes set up by local boards of election.  Ohio Secretary of State, Republican Frank LaRose, is blocking county boards of election from placing more than one drop boxes in each district.[iv]  This means populated counties like Franklin County with over 1.2 million voters will reply on one drop box.  It also means counties with large areas, like Ashtabula County which is over 700 square miles will require voters to travel long distances to the lone drop box in Jefferson, the county seat.


Following up on the Postal Service situation, Postmaster General DeJoy had promised that he would stop dismantling the postal service, he hasn’t.  While he appears to have stopped the removal of sorting machines, he has continued the changes to overtime and schedules, to the point that mail is piling up at post offices.[v]


I have discussed felony disenfranchisement as a tactic used to restrict minority voting.  Following the Civil War, many states began enacting law prohibiting people convicted of felonies from voting.  They then used those laws to target black voters.  Since then the laws have evolved but as of November 2018, three states still effectively barred those convicted of felonies from voting for life.[vi] Those three are Iowa, Kentucky and Virginia.  Florida had a system where a convicted felon could regain voting rights after they served their sentence if they were granted the right by the Governor, something that rarely happened.[vii]

In November of 2018, Florida voters overwhelmingly approved amendment 4 to the Florida constitution that reinstated voting right to felons that completed their sentence (except murder or sexual abuse).  The Republican led legislature then passed a law requiring these ex-felons to pay any and all outstanding legal fines and fees.[viii]  [ix]  A Florida federal court blocked the law, but recently, on September 11, 2020, the 11th Circuit held 6-5 that the law was constitutional.  5 of those 6 judges had been appointed by President Trump. Now former NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg has raised millions to be used to pay off the fines for those who are unable.  The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition runs the fund and Bloomberg has organized over $16 million in donations.[x]

Needless to say, Republicans were furious.  Almost immediately they called for criminal investigations into Bloomberg’s actions.[xi]  Their claim is that this violates voting laws by giving money directly to voters.  I don’t see it that way, it is just Republicans preventing Americans from voting any way they can.

There are a few small rays of light out there.


In Wisconsin the deadline for absentee ballots was 8pm on Election Day.  The primary election April featured long lines, reduced polling places a shortage of workers and thousands of ballots mailed the day after the election.[xii]  Fearing the effects of Corona and the expected huge number of absentee ballots, several groups including the Democratic National Committee sued the state seeking to relax that timeframe.  A federal Judge ruled that absentee ballots must be postmarked by Election Day, November 3 and reach the board of elections by November 9.[xiii]  He also extended the deadline for registering to vote by a week.  Of course the Republicans have appealed and hope to bring it to the Supreme Court which now has one fewer liberal voices.


Under Colorado law, every registered voter is sent a vote by mail ballot.  USPS has been sending out an informational postcard across the country that has significant false statements when applied to Colorado election law.  It could confuse Colorado voters and cause problems.  Colorado voters do not need to request a ballot, yet the notice tells them they need to request one.  It also gives contradictory advice regarding the time to mail in the ballot.

Colorado sued the USPS and a Federal Court granted a restraining order on the USPS preventing them from delivering these notices in Colorado. [xiv]


We’ve discussed some of the biggest attacks, voter ID laws, voter registration restrictions, voter roll purges, felony disenfranchisement and gerrymandering.[xv]  The pattern is clear, Republicans are committed to preventing people from voting.  It is a violation of our basic rights as American citizens.  Every citizen should have an unfettered right to vote.  All these attacks continue and we must be vigilant.
















The author[s] is solely responsible for this blog submission.  It does not represent the position of the New York State Bar Association or its Committee.