Yesterday, Republicans in Wisconsin insisted that voters go to the polls in person in the middle of a global pandemic. The Democratic governor tried to delay the election but the Republican-controlled legislature would not agree. The US Supreme Court split along partisan lines with conservative justices insisting voters must risk infection to have their ballots counted. The satirical website The Onion quipped, “Wisconsin primary voters receive ‘I voted’ gravestones.”
A state Supreme Court race was on the ballot and the GOP realized that a low-voter turnout was better for their candidate. Of course, they denied voter suppression had anything to do with their decision. They always do. Instead, they tried to alter reality by claiming that voting didn’t put anyone at risk. In one hilarious clip playing on twitter, the Republican Speaker of the Wisconsin House is decked out in a clear plastic covering wearing a face mask and rubber gloves declaring, “You are incredibly safe to go out.” Truth and reality are the biggest casualties of the Trump era.
Wisconsin’s situation needs to be viewed in a broader context. The state has a long history of trying to shape the vote. Their gerrymandering is more draconian than North Carolina’s. In 2018, Democrats won 46% of the legislative vote but Republicans won 65% of the seats. They have one of the most restrictive voter ID laws in the country. They know they have difficulty winning the state without manipulating the electorate. Sending people to polls while a highly contagious disease is killing people across the state shows they put their power above the well-being of the people they’re supposed to serve.
Here in North Carolina, we are already discussing how to deal with a general election in a pandemic that will not be over by November. We have seven months to figure it out. Surely, we can do that. Republicans always claim they don’t want to deny people access to the polls so now is their chance to shine. North Carolina should not be Wisconsin. With the will and the resources, we can make voting safe for everyone without discriminating.
In Wisconsin yesterday, the GOP answered the voters’ question “Whose side are you on?” They are clearly not on the side of the people. They put self-interest above the public good. In November, they will hear about it. Republicans in North Carolina shouldn’t make the same mistake of giving citizens the choice between their right to vote and their health.
Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com. Before beginning PoliticsNC, Thomas spent twenty years as a political and public affairs consultant. Learn more >