Those of us who have been concerned about Republican voter suppression tactics expected this might happen: A relative of a Republican political candidate complaining about “onerous rules” that got in the way of casting a vote.
By now, you’ve probably seen or read the story: Ivanka Trump, daughter of Donald Trump, and her brother Eric both missed the voter registration deadline for Tuesday’s New York Republican primary, and thus are locked out of the opportunity to vote for their father.
“New York has one of the most onerous rules in terms of registration, and it required us to register a long time ago, almost — close to a year ago. And we didn’t do that,” Ivanka Trump complained. “Most states you can register as late as the day of the actual primary,” she told CNN.
It’s probably too much to expect, but perhaps Ivanka Trump’s personal experience will make her and her candidate father more sympathetic to the effects of the voter suppression tactics that Trump’s party has engaged in, especially since President Obama took office and after the Supreme Court invalidated a key provision of the Voting Rights Act.
Twenty-one states have imposed new voting restrictions since 2010, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. (And New York’s not one of them.) We’ve most recently seen the effects of these laws in the Wisconsin and Arizona primaries, where thousands of voters waited for hours to cast a ballot – and untold thousands of others gave up. The Justice Department is investigating the Arizona primary for Voting Rights Act violations after the state coupled new voter ID requirements with a cut in the number of polling places in Maricopa County from 200 to just 60. The county population is 30 percent Hispanic.
The Brennan Center last month issued this graphic that raised the question, “Why Is It So Hard to Vote in America?” It lays out some little known facts that together reinforce the point that there are an increasing number of “onerous rules” that block access to the ballot – and that these rules disproportionately affect people who don’t have the economic advantage or white privilege of an Ivanka Trump.
For example, there are 16 million people who don’t have a current, government-issued photo ID. And some states don’t make it easy to get one: In one extreme case in Sauk County, Wisconsin, one town only offers photo IDs during daytime hours on the fifth Wednesday of the month – in other words, only four days a year. (The county seat, Baraboo, is only somewhat better, issuing photo IDs on Mondays and Wednesdays only.)
The graphic also notes that African Americans are four times more likely than whites to be at a polling place where they have to wait at least 30 minutes to vote. For Hispanics, the ratio is six times more likely than whites.
If the Trumps wanted to get rid of what Ivanka Trump calls “onerous rules” like the far-off deadline that she said she was unaware of, they could champion automatic voter registration – a petition that calls for it is currently up on Change.org – and Trump himself could vow to get the Voting Rights Amendment Act through Congress, which among other things would restore the ability of the federal government to review the voting procedure changes of states with a history of voter suppression before they are instituted. He might even support the idea of making the right to vote itself (as opposed to a prohibition against discrimination in voting) a constitutional right.
Yes, this is all improbable. But in this primary season, weirder things have happened.