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  • Shelly Albaum

We Must Punish Voter Suppression


Nice to the see the Washington Post's spot-on commentary on this issue:

In the federal government and in most states, there are consequences when governments deprive Americans of their constitutional right to liberty — through, say, wrongful imprisonment. So why aren’t there more meaningful consequences when states deprive Americans of their constitutional right to vote?

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If we want state officials to stop erring so often on the side of disenfranchising voters, we need to change their incentives. That is, we need to start punishing them for illegally denying Americans the right to vote, rather than just have courts say, “Hey now, don’t do that again.”

The costs are much too low for public officials who, whether deliberately or mistakenly, disenfranchise Americans.

On very, very rare occasions, if a plaintiff can prove that an election was sufficiently tainted, a judge could order a new election. Also on very, very rare occasions, individuals can be charged with a criminal offense if they can be proven to have intentionally interfered with someone’s votes.

But for the most part, policies that systemically disenfranchise thousands of voters — and in the process, possibly swing election results — go unpunished.

Any remedies that do occur are generally forward-looking. That is, a state’s bad law or administrative policy gets struck down, and officials are just forced to do things differently in the next election.

In which case, state officials might respond by introducing a new bad law, a la Texas.

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For American citizens, voting is a sacred and constitutionally enshrined right. It’s time the country, and those paid to serve the public, actually treat it as such.


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