Voter Suppression: Are Republicans Arguing Against Women’s Voting Rights Gaining New Traction?

by | Apr 4, 2024 | Opinions & Commentary

Picture of the entrance of the National Association Opposed To Woman Suffrage’s headquarters. From Library of Congress. Wiki Commons

Voter Suppression: Are Republicans Arguing Against Women’s Voting Rights Gaining New Traction?

by | Apr 4, 2024 | Opinions & Commentary

Picture of the entrance of the National Association Opposed To Woman Suffrage’s headquarters. From Library of Congress. Wiki Commons

Republicans have been on a major campaign to trash reproductive rights and women's rights in general. This creates a big problem for them come election time. Their solution? Stop women from voting.

Republished with permission from Thom Hartmann

The Republican nominee for governor of North Carolina this year, Trump-endorsed Lt. Governor Mark Robinson, knows how to fix America’s political and social problems: prevent women from voting.

In a video from his presentation to—ironically—the Republican Women of Pitt County in March of 2020, when Robinson was successfully running for lieutenant governor, he came right out and said it:

“I absolutely want to go back to the America where women couldn’t vote,” Robinson argued. “Do you know why? Because in those days, we had people who fought for real social change, and they were called Republicans. … That’s the America we want to bring back. We want to bring back the America where Republicans and principles and true ideas of freedom rule.”

Of course, Robinson isn’t onto something new for the GOP. What’s new is that some of the party’s most extreme voter suppression efforts—theoretically only targeting Blacks and Hispanics—will be working this fall to prevent women from voting as well.

The calls to disenfranchise women have been growing among Republicans in recent years. Just a few months ago, Ann Coulter was blunt:

“Once again, it is time to reconsider our rash experiment with women’s suffrage.”

Michigan Republican John Gibbs, it was revealed when he ran for Congress in 2022 as the official GOP candidate for that state’s 3rd congressional district, was ahead of the curve. The former Trump administration official had created a website two decades ago that laid out the conservative argument against women voting:

“Some argue that in a democratic society, it is hypocritical or unjust for women, who are 50% of the population, not to have the vote. This is obviously not true, since the founding fathers, who understood liberty and democracy better than anyone, did not believe so. In addition, all people under age 18 cannot vote, although they too comprise a significant portion of the population. So we cannot say that women should be able to vote simply because they are a large part of the population.”

“We conclude that increasing the size and scope of government is unequivocally bad. And since women’s suffrage has caused this to occur on a larger scale than any other cause in history, we conclude that the United States has suffered as a result of women’s suffrage.”

In 1923, the Equal Rights Amendment, which simply says, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex,” was first proposed in the House of Representatives. It passed in 1973. But every year since then Republicans in the Senate have blocked it.

Most recently, last year, the only Republicans who voted for it were Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins, and the two of them and all the Democrats were eight votes short of the needed 60 to overcome a Republican filibuster.

Another hot GOP idea to dial back women’s electoral power is advocated by anti-abortion activist Abby Johnson, who spoke at the 2020 Republican National Convention. She doesn’t want all women to be refused at the voting booth: only those who are married. She only wants “heads of households” to vote: one vote per family. When a reporter asked her how a family would vote when the husband was a Republican and the wife was a Democrat, she replied:

“Then they would have to decide on one vote. In a Godly household, the husband would get the final say.”

Florida Republican Congressman and admirer of drugs and underage girls Matt Gaetz is clear about the GOP not needing the votes of those whiney “Karen” women who’re upset with the party’s anti-abortion and other misogynistic positions. Instead, they can simply rely on recruiting Hispanic and Black men to replace them. He recently told Newsmax’s Carl Higbie:

“This is the blue collar realignment of the Republican Party and what I can tell you is for every Karen we lose, there’s a Julio and a Jamal ready to sign up for the MAGA movement.”

When news broke in 2016 that the women’s vote is what gave Hillary a 3-million popular vote win over Trump, a #RepealThe16th hashtag went viral, according to FiveThirtyEight. Nate Silver noted on Twitter that, “If only men voted in the presidential election, Mr. Trump would win the election with 350 electoral votes and Mrs. Clinton only 188”: the tweet exploded across the internet.

While saying out loud that women shouldn’t be allowed to vote is an outlier position in today’s GOP, the impact of their actual legislative actions are working to keep many women from voting.

Starting during the Reagan campaign in 1980, Republican influencers like Heritage Foundation co-founder Paul Weyrich began pushing to make it harder for traditionally Democratic constituencies (minorities, students, women) to vote. At a Dallas campaign event for Reagan, Weyrich was emphatic:

“I don’t want everyone to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of people, they never have been from the beginning of our country, and they aren’t now. As a matter of fact, our leverage in elections quite candidly goes up, as the voting populous goes down.”

It took Weyrich and friends twenty-six years to get even one state to go along with their Republican plan to make it harder for Americans to vote.

In 2006, Indiana was the first state in America to require state-issued ID to vote, following a GOP analysis that found Blacks and women were far less likely to have such ID than white men. Fully 34 percent of American women don’t have government-issued ID with their current legal name on it, according to the Brennan Center, along with 25 percent of vote-eligible Blacks and 18 percent of Social Security-voting senior citizens.

Republicans in Indiana (and subsequent states) used the bullshit argument that there was widespread “voter fraud,” and complained that the problem was so bad the draconian measure of requiring ID was necessary.

In reality, over 250,000,000 votes were cast in primary and general elections in 2020 with only 193 criminal convictions for vote fraud. Those numbers are in the “struck by lightning” realm: the effort required to fraudulently vote is simply not worth the minimal effect it has on an election. There has never, in the history of the US or any other advanced democracy, been an actual problem of “voter fraud.”

But since Indiana started demanding government ID, the practice has spread to every Red state in the nation, with many requiring both a photo ID and proof of citizenship like a birth certificate. And that’s where women are running into barriers.

When Louise and I got married in 1972, she never formally applied for a change of name from her maiden name, to my name, Hartmann. If we lived in one of the most restrictive Red states (Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia), she could be prevented from voting because her birth certificate and her driver’s license have different names on them and she has no proof that she’d applied to any state for a name status change.

The same is true of literally millions of American women, and with abortion driving turnout in a way that’s completely freaking Republicans out, expect stricter enforcement of these provisions this November.

In Texas, for example, District Court Judge Sandra Watts was turned away from voting because one of her documents had her maiden name listed as her middle name, but another had her birth middle name. Had she not been a judge and known how to get through the system, she probably would have done what many women do when confronted with this dilemma: simply stop voting.

Those states, specifically, are the places where “exact match” and similar ALEC-type laws have been passed forbidding people to vote if their voter registration, ID, or birth certificate is off by even a comma, period, or single letter.

The impact, particularly on married women, has been clear and measurable. As the National Organization for Women (NOW) details in a report on how Republican voter suppression efforts harm women:

Voter ID laws have a disproportionately negative effect on women. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, one third of all women have citizenship documents that do not identically match their current names primarily because of name changes at marriage. Roughly 90 percent of women who marry adopt their husband’s last name.

“That means that roughly 90 percent of married female voters have a different name on their ID than the one on their birth certificate. An estimated 34 percent of women could be turned away from the polls unless they have precisely the right documents.”

This hits Black women even harder than White women, and, because Black women have been the key to both the Obama and Biden presidencies, this is a reality not lost on Republicans. Particularly in a country and era where most elections are decided by one or two or three points.

A study done on the impact of strict voter ID requirements in North Carolina found:

“Much like other studies of photo ID, … NC women voters are overrepresented among those who do not have a valid, DMV issued photo ID that matches the name on their voter registration card. Of the 3,575,713 registered women voters in 2012, 202,714 or 5.7% of registered women voters lack the identification necessary to vote. Meanwhile, of the 3,079,589 registered male voters in 2012, 115,930 or 3.8% lack necessary photo ID. Another way of looking at the data is that nearly twice as many registered women voters lack the photo ID as similarly situated men. Of all registered voters lacking photo ID, 63.62% are women.

“But voter ID issues for women don’t stop there. Of all registered NC women voters in 2012, 70.48% were white and 29.52% were nonwhite… Yet of the 202,714 registered women voters identified in the State Board of Elections’ ‘No ID’ report, 56.48% were white and 43.52% were nonwhite. Women of color are substantially more impacted by photo ID requirements than white women. Particularly troubling is the trend in African-American women, who made up just 23.79% of registered female voters in 2012 but account for 34.22% of registered women voters in the ‘No ID’ report.” (emphasis mine)

It also hits older voters—more likely to vote with Democrats on Social Security and Medicare—hard. In Indiana, a dozen nuns in their 80s and 90s were turned away from voting because their ID’s were out of date: none had driven a car in decades, so they hadn’t renewed their licenses.

Then-Indiana Secretary of State Todd Rokita crowed in delight at the women who couldn’t vote, saying it was their own damn fault and not the result of draconian Republican efforts to cut the number of minority and female voters. In an official statement from his office, he bragged:

“Indiana’s Voter ID Law applies to everyone. From all accounts that we’ve heard, the sisters were aware of the photo ID requirements and chose not to follow them.”

This is not a small or inconsequential issue. As the Council on Foreign Relations notes:

“Women voters will play a pivotal role in determining the outcome of the 2024 U.S. presidential election. Women comprise the largest group of registered voters, and they tend to turn out at high levels to vote, as 68.4 percent of them did in the 2020 election.”

But Republicans—particularly this November, with tens of thousands of “election integrity” volunteers drawn from GOP and militia ranks checking IDs and challenging voters—are going to do everything they can to make it harder for women to vote, particularly in swing states.

Forewarned is forearmed.​

Thom Hartmann

Thom Hartmann

Thom Hartmann, one of America’s leading public intellectuals and the country’s #1 progressive talk show host, writes fresh content six days a week. The Monday-Friday “Daily Take” articles are free to all, while paid subscribers receive a Saturday summary of the week’s news and, on Sunday, a chapter excerpt from one of his books.

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