While America has no history of significant voter fraud, unnecessary restrictions on voting have defined the limits of our democracy since the nation’s founding. Today, the Supreme Court is the greatest force for voter suppression in America and the Republican Party’s best and possibly only hope, for remaining a national party.

Monday’s ruling requiring that absentee ballots in South Carolina be signed by a witness, even in the midst of the worst pandemic of the century, is just another reminder that Republican-appointed members of the court have long adopted the GOP goal of controlling all three branches of government, regardless of what voters want. 

Oppressive requirements on voting are a solution in search of a problem — unless you consider Republicans not being able to compete in fair elections a problem. George W. Bush’s Department of Justice spent five years looking for voting fraud and instead found “virtually no evidence of any organized effort to skew federal elections,” the New York Times reported in 2007. But all the proof the GOP really needed that voting is too easy presented itself in the massive multi-racial coalition that propelled Barack Obama into the presidency. 

On board with making it harder to vote

In the last decade Republicans have shamelessly pursued an agenda to make it more difficult to vote, while making it far easier to buy elections with anonymous, unlimited donations. And their greatest allies have been the members of the Supreme Court appointed by Republican presidents.

Our country has changed,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the 2013 decision that gutted the Voting Rights Act, ending the mere 48 years when the right to vote was truly protected by the force of law. “While any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions.” 

Since 2013, the court has freed up states like Texas, which already has Jim Crow-era voting registration laws, to enact transparently suppressive voter ID laws that allow gun licenses as identification, but not but not student IDs.

But even these restrictions aren’t enough for Texas Republicans determined to keep picking their voters rather than letting voters pick them.

‘To The Polls’ murals in Love Park, Philadelphia, encouraging people to vote, on Oct. 7, 2020.

If you need proof that Lone Star State Republicans are shaking in their boots in fear of the long-dreaded prospect that their state will follow in California’s bright blue footsteps, don’t look at the tightening polls. Look at Governor Greg Abbott’s order limiting Texas mail-in ballot collection locations to one per county. 

As Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, put it, “This sabotage is not about election security; it is about Republican political insecurity.” His county, including Austin, had four drop-off locations. Harris County, home of Houston, had 12.

The burden of having to drive further and wait longer in line to turn in a ballot during a pandemic could be enough to save Republicans’ state House majority or, possibly, keep Trump from losing the state that delivered him the most electoral votes in 2016. 

At least, that’s the plan.

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Abbott’s desperate gambit is precisely the sort of suppressive electoral change the pre-clearance power of the Voting Rights Act was designed to prevent. And it’s almost impossible to calculate the damage this one decision by the court has done to our democracy while handing the GOP power it could never have won in fair elections.

The year after the Supreme Court’s Shelby v. Holder decision crushed the Voting Rights Act saw the lowest turnout of any midterm election since World War II. Coincidentally. And the very next presidential election saw an Electoral College victory for Trump, a man whose career as a Republican politician began with him questioning the citizenship of the first black president. Coincidentally.

Bush v. Gore II would destroy court

In 2020, Republicans aren’t even hiding their disdain for democracy. Sen. Lindsey Graham has openly called for Amy Coney Barrett to be confirmed to the Supreme Court before Election Day so the Supreme Court can “decide” the election.

Forget the unfairness of the Electoral College that will swipe the election from the candidate who got millions more votes. The argument here is that the court should pick the president.

Nothing would obliterate the legitimacy of this court faster than another Bush v. Gore-style robbery in plain sight, this time carried out with the help of three justices picked by a president who has no hope of ever winning the popular vote.

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A new poll finds that 74% of voters want the Senate to work on COVID-19 relief before confirming a justice Trump hopes will both deliver him the election and kill the Affordable Care Act. So this confirmation alone may be enough to destroy any faith in a court and a party that has no faith in democracy itself. 

Republicans may argue that the Constitution allows them to confirm a justice now, days before voters pick the next president. But it also allows Congress to set the size of the court. And the only way to defeat this small-minded obsession with suppressing democracy would be to expand that mind with a few more justices.

Jason Sattler, a writer based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, is a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors and host of “The GOTMFV Show” podcast. Follow him on Twitter: @LOLGOP

You can read diverse opinions from our Board of Contributors and other writers on the Opinion front page, on Twitter @usatodayopinion and in our daily Opinion newsletter. To respond to a column, submit a comment to letters@usatoday.com.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Supreme Court suppresses voters, will it decide 2020 election for Trump?





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