Can the GOP Be Stopped from Defying Courts & Stealing Elections Out in the Open?
In last year’s election fully six Red states used illegal maps in defiance of the courts, keeping the House of Representatives and state legislatures in GOP hands through the 2022 balloting…
Republican election theft used to be covert and was almost never covered by the press. Now they’re doing it out in the open and defying federal courts to stop them, while ignoring press coverage that outs what they’re up to.
As Alexander Hamilton pointed out in the Federalist Papers, the courts have neither sword nor purse: they don’t have any mechanism to force compliance with their rulings.
So it appears that multiple Republican states have chosen to simply ignore their own courts, as well as the federal courts and the Supreme Court. This is a big step up from how they used to steal elections.
In 1968, for example, after tens of thousands of American deaths and millions of Vietnamese, President Lyndon Johnson had worked out a peace deal between the US, North Vietnam, and South Vietnam. His vice president, Hubert Humphrey, was running for president in the 1968 election against Richard Nixon, and announcing the peace deal in the fall of ’68 would almost certainly swing the election in Humphrey’s favor.
So Nixon went to work. He had his people reach out to the South Vietnamese officials and tell them that he’d make them rich if they’d just refuse to go along with LBJ’s peace deal. It worked.
The FBI had been wiretapping the Vietnamese and told LBJ about Nixon’s effort to prolong the Vietnam War. Thus, just three days before the 1968 election, Johnson phoned the Republican Senate leader, Everett Dirksen, (you can listen to the entire conversation here):
President Johnson: Some of our folks, including some of the old China lobby, are going to the Vietnamese embassy and saying please notify the [South Vietnamese] president that if he’ll hold out ’til November 2nd they could get a better deal. Now, I’m reading their hand. I don’t want to get this in the campaign. And they oughtn’t to be doin’ this, Everett. This is treason.
Sen. Dirksen: I know.
Those tapes were only released by the LBJ library in the past decade, and that’s Richard Nixon who Lyndon Johnson was accusing of treason.
At that point, for President Johnson, it was no longer about getting Humphrey elected. By then Nixon’s plan had already worked and Humphrey was being wiped out in the polls because the war was ongoing.
Instead, Johnson was desperately trying to salvage the peace talks to stop the death and carnage as soon as possible. He literally couldn’t sleep.
In a phone call to Nixon himself just before the election, LBJ begged him to stop sabotaging the peace process, noting that he was almost certainly going to win the election and inherit the war anyway. Instead, Nixon publicly said LBJ’s efforts were “in shambles.”
But South Vietnam had taken Nixon’s deal and boycotted the peace talks, the war continued, and Nixon won the White House thanks to it.
An additional twenty-two thousand American soldiers, and an additional million-plus Vietnamese died because of Nixon’s 1968 treason, and he left it to Jerry Ford to end the war and evacuate the American soldiers.
Nixon was never held to account for that treason, and when the LBJ library released the tapes and documentation long after his and LBJ’s deaths it was barely noticed by the American press.
Because Nixon got away with it, Reagan tried the same stunt, this time with Iran’s mullahs. His campaign — confirmed just this year by The New York Times — reached out to the Ayatollah and told him that if he’d hold the US hostages taken in the last year of Jimmy Carter’s presidency, he’d begin shipping weapons and spare parts to Iran as soon as he became president.
American soldiers died trying to rescue the hostages, but they were firmly held by Iran to meet the terms of Reagan’s deal; it was during Reagan’s swearing-in ceremony on January 20, 1981 that Iran released them, just as Reagan put his hand on the bible, to the minute.
Reagan and Nixon getting away with rigging elections inspired Texas Governor George W. and his brother, Florida Governor Jeb Bush. Jeb had his Secretary of State, Kathryn Harris, throw around 90,000 African Americans off the voting rolls and then, just for good measure, invented a new category of ballots for the 2000 election: “Spoiled.”
“Spoiled ballots” were ballots mostly coming from Black neighborhoods where Bush’s and Harris’ people had installed old, defective, and unreliable punch-card voting card machines. When people weren’t sure all the right holes had been punched (because some hadn’t worked right), they’d often write in “Al Gore” in the “write in” space along with punching the Gore button.
This, according to Bush and Harris, “spoiled” the ballots so they didn’t need to be counted, although there is no state or federal law that would back up that claim and require those ballots to be ignored.
As The New York Times reported a year after the 2000 election when the consortium of newspapers they were part of finally recounted all the ballots:
“While 35,176 voters wrote in Bush’s name after punching the hole for him, 80,775 wrote in Gore’s name while punching the hole for Gore. [Florida Secretary of State] Katherine Harris decided that these were ‘spoiled’ ballots because they were both punched and written upon and ordered that none of them should be counted.
“Many were from African American districts, where older and often broken machines were distributed, causing voters to write onto their ballots so their intent would be unambiguous.”
George W. Bush “won” the election by 537 votes in Florida, because the statewide recount — which would have revealed and counted the “spoiled” ballots, handing the election to Gore (who’d won the popular vote by over a half-million) — was stopped when Sandra Day O’Connor became the deciding vote on the Supreme Court to block the recount order from the Florida Supreme Court.
She had told friends, when the election was initially called for Al Gore by CBS News, that she wanted to retire that year because her husband had just been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and she did not want her replacement to be appointed by a Democrat. So she voted to hand the White House to George W. Bush, Florida’s voters be damned.
At least back then the GOP was listening to the federal courts.
The Supreme Court this year upheld the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that makes it illegal to gerrymander a state based on race.
Since then, federal courts have ordered multiple Red states to re-do their electoral maps to strip out racial gerrymandering, and all have essentially told them to go screw themselves. They know the courts lack enforcement powers, so they’re just ignoring the orders or playing legal games to drag things out.
Just this week, North Dakota’s Republican House Majority Leader Mike Lefor told the Associated Press and the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals that “[T]here’s no way” the Republicans will re-draw the maps in a way that will meet the deadlines the court has imposed.
Also, earlier this month Georgia gave the federal courts the middle finger, drawing new maps that were just as offensive as the old ones the courts had earlier rejected. As Steven Wolfe wrote for Daily Kos Elections:
“As a result, even though Joe Biden won Georgia in 2020, Donald Trump would have carried a 9-5 majority of congressional seats, a 33-23 majority of state Senate seats, and a 95-85 majority of state House seats under the new maps. Democrats could win majorities in only the most implausible of landslides.”
Meanwhile, both Louisiana and Alabama are ignoring court orders to draw fair maps, hoping that by hanging on to their old maps through the 2024 election Republicans can continue to hold power, even if abortion and fascism concerns produce a bumper crop of Democratic voters showing up to the polls.
As the Brennan Center noted in September:
“Ten years ago in Shelby County, Chief Justice Roberts wrote, ‘Things have changed in the South.’ In many ways, they have. But, sadly, Alabama and Louisiana illustrate some of the ways they haven’t.”
Ohio had been similarly gerrymandered to favor white people, with five maps struck down by their state supreme court. But when the chief justice was forced to retire because of her age, her replacement flipped the tie-breaking vote and in a stunningly partisan act approved the heavily gerrymandered maps for 2024.
In North Carolina, Republicans just waited long enough that the challenge to their 2023 redraw of their heavily gerrymandered maps wouldn’t affect the 2024 election. If the state complies and produces less racially gerrymandered maps, the earliest they can now be used is the 2026 election. As the NAACP and Common Cause pointed out in a lawsuit filed this week:
“The General Assembly targeted predominantly Black voting precincts with surgical precision throughout the state in drawing and enacting the 2023 Plans, at the expense of traditional redistricting criteria, to achieve preferred district lines that diminish Black voters’ ability to elect candidates of their choice at all levels of government.”
Republicans have a long history of ignoring or breaking the law when it means acquiring or holding onto political power. They know that most Americans have little interest in their main agenda of gutting the middle class, destroying unions, banning abortion, throwing people off Medicaid, keeping the minimum wage at $7.25/hour, deregulating polluters, and giving unending tax breaks to billionaires.
Thus, they cheat. And that doesn’t even begin to address the tens of millions of voters Republicans have purged from voting rolls in Blue cities located within Red states across the country. As Demos noted:
“Between the close of registration for the 2020 general election and the close of registration for the 2022 general election, states reported removing 19,260,000 records from their voter registration rolls. This was equal to 8.5% of the total number of voters who were registered in the United States as of the close of registration for the 2022 general election.”
Additionally, seventeen million voters were purged in the two years leading up to the 2018 election, fully ten percent of America’s voting population, according to the Brennan Center.
Democracy Docket points out that in last year’s election fully six Red states used illegal maps in defiance of the courts, keeping the House of Representatives and state legislatures in GOP hands through the 2022 balloting:
“In 2022, voters in six states cast ballots in congressional districts that have been ruled in violation of either the 14th Amendment, Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), or state constitutions.”
The election in 2024 may be even worse.