Do we believe in free and fair elections?

New Mexico dodged a bullet in the recent election. We elected a Secretary of State who encourages voting instead of a candidate whose publicly stated goal is to suppress it.

Congratulations to us!

At a candidate debate in October, Republican nominee Nora Espinoza talked about only one issue: requiring voter ID. Her opponent, Democrat Maggie Toulouse Oliver, won by almost 100,000 votes.

Voter ID has been shown to be a code word for voter suppression – purposeful organized techniques to prevent legally qualified Americans from voting.

Some forms of voter suppression are now legal in America.  Both legal and illegal forms of voter suppression were employed this year in several states. Pundits and scholars will argue whether voter suppression caused the election results or merely contributed, but there’s little doubt that many votes were never cast or never counted – as to how many, the pundits will argue about the numbers also.

The 1965 Voting Rights Act recognized that voting practices in some states actively discriminated against ethnic minorities and other target groups. The law required that voting procedures be conducted so as not to discriminate against those groups. In states with records of discriminatory practices, federal oversight was imposed.

A few years ago, over the objection of civil rights groups, the US Supreme Court ruled the oversight was no longer required. Several states with Republican legislative majorities have enacted laws creating obstacles to voting for targeted groups of citizens– 14 states, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University. They were listed as Alabama, Arizona, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin.

In North Carolina, courts determined the state’s new law was so overtly discriminatory that it was overturned, but other states’ laws are still standing.

That is reprehensible but legal. What may not have been legal were such practices as closing polling places in minority neighborhoods, “purges” that removed registered voters’ names from the rolls based on phony criteria and poll workers who demanded forms of identification that their own state law did not require.

This is clearly one-sided.  In every case, these actions have been done by Republicans to limit ballot access to voters who are likely to vote Democrat.

But, with a few exceptions, it didn’t happen in New Mexico.

When I wrote in a recent column that you can’t rig a national election, I made a mistake. It was the same mistake journalists were making all over the country.  Journalists as well as politicians took Donald Trump’s bait and rushed to defend our system against what we foresaw would be a post-election attack by him after losing.  But we failed to raise the alarm about the purges and other activities going on quietly in state after state.

We’ve had some voter suppression attempts in New Mexico, including a flier mailed to voters this October threatening that “your neighbors will know” if you vote Democratic. It made national news.

In 2012, a video was made public, showing New Mexico Republican poll challengers being trained to give false or misleading information to voters about what ID was required.

Secretary Clinton won the popular vote and only lost the election because of the way votes are counted for the Electoral College. We don’t know whether the votes never cast or never counted would have made the difference.

We are now living in a country in which the majority does not rule, and some people seem to like it that way.  So I will ask you, readers: is that what you want?   Is that the kind of country you want to live in?  If you believe in the traditional values of your party but you don’t support large-scale voter suppression as a value of your party, maybe you should send a letter to your party leadership.

Triple Spaced Again, © New Mexico News Services 2016

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