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Russia isn’t the biggest threat to our elections. It’s Republicans

When it comes to voting, America has always ignored its democratic principles to maintain white supremacy.

Lesley Becker/Globe Staff; Adobe

On ABC’s “The Week in Washington” last Sunday, Representative Jerry Nadler, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, said of President Trump’s behavior, “This is a crime in progress against the Constitution and against American democracy. We cannot take the risk that the next election will be corrupted through foreign interference solicited by the president.”

Our 2020 presidential election is already being corrupted, and not only by foreign bad actors.

Forget about the false algorithms of “electability” or polls trying to determine which Democratic contenders have the best shot at making Trump a one-term president. What may have the greatest impact on the election is a voter suppression blitz exploding in real time.


In Wisconsin, a swing state, about 234,000 voters may soon be removed from the registration lists because they’ve changed addresses. Trump won Wisconsin by just 23,000 votes in 2016.

And Georgia is up to its dirty tricks again. After a 2018 gubernatorial campaign scarred by precinct closures and voter purges that probably prevented Stacey Abrams from becoming this nation’s first African-American woman governor, the state is removing registered voters again. A federal judge Monday ruled state election officials can cancel more than 300,000 voters. That includes nearly 120,000 inactive voters from its registration list, under the state’s “use it or lose it” law. Those who don’t go to the polls for several years risk having their registration canceled.

If history is any guide, minority and low-income communities in both states will be most severely impacted, hurting Democrats’ electoral prospects. That’s exactly why conservative groups mobilize against anything that dares to make elections fair and accessible to all Americans.

The Rev. William Barber, a prominent civil rights activist, called it back in 2017: “Voter suppression hacked our democracy long before any Russian agents meddled in America’s elections.”


You cannot be outraged by Trump’s attempts to extort Ukraine into launching a phony investigation into former vice president and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter while ignoring the impossible toll this concerted campaign is exerting on one of the pillars of our beleaguered democracy. That’s like focusing all attention on foreign terrorists while pretending that white nationalist violence isn’t a more potent threat in this nation.

Of course, when it comes to voting, this country has always ignored its democratic principles in order to maintain white supremacy. Voting is still viewed as a privilege easily afforded to some instead of a constitutional right for all. Republicans don’t trust their ability to win fairly, so they’re happy to cheat by setting up as many obstacles as possible to keep millions from the polls. From voter-ID laws to denying the restoration of voting rights to felons who have done their time, the GOP has no interest in a level playing field for voters.

Governor Brian Kemp of Georgia, who won his seat only because he rigged the election at every turn, all but admitted this in 2014 when he was still secretary of state and overseeing the state’s elections (something he continued to do even as he was running for governor last year).

“You know the Democrats are working hard, and all these stories about them, you know, registering all these minority voters that are out there and others that are sitting on the sidelines, if they can do that, they can win these elections in November,” he said. “But we’ve got to do the exact same thing.”


Instead, what states are doing is suppressing voters, courtesy of a gutted Voting Rights Act.

Perhaps this is why Trump had no issue trying to get a foreign government to kneecap a political rival and skew the election in his own favor. In modern political history, when has the GOP ever cared about the sanctity of our elections? For months, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has ignored a bill designed to protect elections, the House-passed “For the People Act,” which among many sweeping proposals, seeks to expand voting rights.

Without fair elections, America can never be a democracy in full. That’s exactly what Republicans want. This, too, is a crime in progress, as the greatest threat to the Constitution thrives not in Russia, but as malfeasance stretching from conservative groups and state officials to the White House.

Renée Graham can be reached at renee.graham@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @reneeygraham.