Democratic fears grow over 2020 voter suppression

Democrats say voter suppression is one of their biggest concerns going into the November election against President TrumpDonald John TrumpProtesters tear down statue of Christopher Columbus in Baltimore 'Independence Day' star Bill Pullman urges Americans to wear a 'freedom mask' in July 4 PSA Protesters burn American flag outside White House after Trump's July Fourth address MORE

There were plenty of warning signs for Democrats, they say, in Georgia’s primary election this week when voters waited in hours-long lines, voting machines malfunctioned and election site workers were ill-equipped to handle problems‚ often in communities where large populations of black voters reside.

“Yes, this isn’t a theoretical question,” said Democratic strategist Eddie Vale, after being asked if Democrats should be concerned about voter suppression in the general election when former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump hits 'radical left,' news media, China in Independence Day address Kaepernick on July Fourth: 'We reject your celebration of white supremacy' Jaime Harrison seeks to convince Democrats he can take down Lindsey Graham MORE will take on Trump. 

ADVERTISEMENT

“The [Republican National Committee] spent decades under a consent decree for their work suppressing minority voters and now that it has been lifted Trump and Republicans are openly bragging about being able to go back to work keeping people from voting,” he said. 

“It is absolutely a legitimate concern,” said Democratic strategist Joel Payne. “Less people vote, more Republicans win. That’s their strategy.”

In an appearance on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” this week, Biden openly expressed worries about voter suppression.

“It’s my greatest concern, my single greatest concern,” Biden told host Trevor NoahTrevor NoahPelosi predicts Trump would accept election results if he loses, but says 'be prepared for everything' The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - GOP, Dems jockey for position on police reform Democratic fears grow over 2020 voter suppression MORE. “This president is going to try and steal the election.” 

The former vice president then referred to Trump’s dismissal of mail-in ballots, which he has said are fraudulent, even as he voted by mail in Florida’s primary election earlier this year.

“This is a guy who said that all mail-in ballots are fraudulent, direct voting by mail, while he sits behind the desk in the Oval Office and writes his mail-in ballot to vote in the primary,” Biden said.

ADVERTISEMENT

Biden and other Democrats fear Trump will continue to blast the vote-by-mail system in a year when many voters may use that option to cast absentee ballots because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

In the interview with Noah, Biden acknowledged that his campaign had lawyers prepared to intervene in order to enforce voting rights. 

But White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany pushed back on Biden’s comments, calling it a “ridiculous proposition” and accusing Biden of pushing a conspiracy theory. 

“The president’s looking forward to November,” McEnany said. “This president’s hard at work for the American people, and leave it to Democrats to go out there and grandstand and level these conspiracy theories.” 

Stacey Abrams, the former Georgia gubernatorial candidate who is the founder of Fair Fight, an organization aimed at combating voter suppression and ensuring fair elections, said it’s anything but a conspiracy theory. 

Abrams, who has been on Biden’s list of prospective candidates to be his running mate, has been trying to highlight the issue before the November election. 

“We should absolutely be concerned about voter suppression and its impact on November’s election,” Abrams said in a statement to The Hill, adding that Democrats “should turn that concern into action through robust voter protection operations, voter education, advocacy campaigns and litigation. 

“Georgia’s primary was an unmitigated disaster, but the solutions are not difficult,” Abrams said. “We need more resources and better training of poll workers and county officials.”

Clemmie Harris, an assistant professor of American History and Africana studies at Utica College in New York, said the Georgia primary this week should give Democrats the most pause. 

He pointed to the fact that Trump received not only more votes than all the Democratic candidates combined including Biden and Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Memo: Unhappy voters could deliver political shocks beyond Trump Democratic senator will introduce bill mandating social distancing on flights after flying on packed plane Neil Young opposes use of his music at Trump Mount Rushmore event: 'I stand in solidarity with the Lakota Sioux' MORE (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenThe Hill's Campaign Report: Biden chips away at Trump's fundraising advantage Warnock raises almost M in Georgia Senate race in second quarter The Hill's Morning Report - Trump lays low as approval hits 18-month low MORE (D-Mass.), but that he received more votes than former President Obama in the 2012 primary. 

At the same time, Harris said, African American voters in Fulton and Dekalb counties, two counties with large black populations, were “experiencing new levels of voter suppression.” 

“This is not the first time these types of issues surfaced,” he said, highlighting issues in 2016 and 2018, when 87,000 people were denied an opportunity to cast their vote. 

ADVERTISEMENT

“In the absence of federal oversight, what happened in Georgia should deeply concern the Democrats,” Harris said. “Simply put, what happened in Georgia is a lens into how Trump and the GOP can literally steal the election.”

Payne said no one — Democrat or Republican — should allow anyone to lose an opportunity to vote. 

“I don’t know how anyone can view it as acceptable for someone to stand in line for seven hours to vote,” he said. “But no Republican has said ‘That’s wrong. We should do something to change it.’ And I think that’s disheartening.” 

--This report was updated at 11:40 a.m.