Modern Republicans are often accused of trying to suppress the right to vote for minorities.

Are there cases where the modern Democratic party (ie post Jim Crow) is accused of suppressing the right to vote for demographics that are less likely to vote for them? Do they use the same tactics as Republicans are accused of, or are they different?

Examples:

  • closing of specific polling places not likely to vote for their party
  • requiring specific IDs less likely to be owned by minorities
  • purging voter registrations of specific demographics
  • keeping voter registrations of specific demographics on hold
  • misinforming specific demographics about voting location or time.
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Philipp Oct 23 at 22:22
  • Further comments deleted. If you want to debate the "defacto racist vs. deliberately racist" argument, please do so in the provided chatroom. Also, please try to stay civil while doing so. – Philipp Oct 24 at 14:38
up vote 48 down vote accepted

As far as I know, there are no reported cases of Democrats suppressing votes in the same manner as Republicans are seen to be doing, however there are still some accusations of voter suppression that have been leveled at the party.

Scheduling Off-Cycle Elections

Democrats have, in general, stood against attempts to bring local election schedules in line with one another. It is thought by some that this is because having these elections at unusual times leads to only the most motivated voters bothering to show up at the polls. Often, these are the workers directly affected by the election. For more information, take a look at this article.

Primary Elections

There have been accusations that Democrats deliberately make it difficult to switch your party affiliation to vote for an inspiring candidate in an attempt to ensure that mainstream, establishment candidates get the democratic nomination. For more information on the phenomenon, take a look here.

In general, however, these cases seem more isolated than the Republican attempts, and to generally be isolated to elections with somewhat lower stakes. This is likely why they are less reported on, and not seen as such an intense issue.

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    +1 The first point is very interesting. I heard that Democrats are at a disadvantage in the midterms, and just assumed that that disadvantage scales further down (so they would actually not prefer off-cycle elections). But the linked analysis seems very reasonable. I'm not that much interested in primaries, as afaik parties could decide on their front-runner however they want (they could just throw a coin, or dictatorially determine the front-runner by party elders). – tim Oct 23 at 12:46
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    Your second point doesn't apply in my state, FWIW. I suspect it varies state to state. In Minnesota, you are restricted to voting one column only in the partisan part of the primary ballot, and you show up to whatever precinct caucus you like. – David Thornley Oct 23 at 16:31
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    This answer is incorrect. Not only are there reported cases, but there are documented cases of the Democratic Party suppressing voters in the same manner as Republican Party is now doing. See my example below on Louisiana voter suppression under the Democratic Party. – birch Oct 23 at 19:17
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    Is there anywhere that has a consolidated list of which states do the weird scheduling thing, and for which offices they do it? AFAIK my state doesn't do anything like that directly, although running some types of elections in odd years can have some interesting effects. ex in the aftermath of Trump's win the Pa Democrats were apparently more motivated to vote than normal in 2017 and elected the State Supreme Court judges who tossed the gerrymandered 2010 map for congressional districts. I suspect the same circumstances resulted in them winning more lower judicial elections, but am unsure. – Dan Neely Oct 23 at 19:52
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    @Wes Regardless of whether ID laws are designed to suppress minority voting, this answer doesn't mention ID law, did you comment on the wrong answer? – Azor Ahai Oct 23 at 23:38

If historical answers are acceptable, then Democrats wrote the book on racist voter suppression. Wikipedia's article Disenfranchisement after the Reconstruction Era covers the Southern Democrat's foul tricks such as:

In those days it was the Radical Republicans who fought against voter suppression.

The two parties virtually traded places on racism in the mid-20th century, which can lead to brand confusion. Sometimes modern racist Republicans exploit this brand confusion by calling themselves "The Party of Lincoln" whilst advocating policies Lincoln would not have admired.

So there's a vile history of racist voter suppression on both sides. Voter suppression is not one party's problem, it's everyone's (or at least everyone who's not trying to promote racism), and should properly be regarded as a general bipartisan reform issue.


Note:

In a comment, (since deleted by the moderator), commentator T.E.D. argued that modern political parties should bear no discredit for the wrongs done in their name by "wings" or factions that have since departed and joined other parties. The argument seems similar to the merely feasible legalistic reasoning that the disingenuous descendants of a criminal made wealthy by terrible unpunished crimes are therefore free of any moral taint or responsibility for the redress of crimes they did not commit but enjoyed and inherited the rewards of. Meanwhile the pauperized families of the deceased wealthy criminal's victims are considered solely responsible for their lot.

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    I thought about mentioning in my question that I'm not really interested in Jim Crow and related voter suppression, but decided against it because I thought it would be clear that I meant the modern Democratic party. On the other hand, I should probably have mentioned this, so thanks for your answer. – tim Oct 23 at 14:34
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    Though as you said, the parties basically traded places; this doesn't seem like a case of "voter suppression on both sides", but a continuation of the same suppression of the same minorities by the same (kind of) people, just under a different label. Voter suppression by "the other side" - ie Republicans - during that area would be interesting (but also not what the question is about) – tim Oct 23 at 14:35
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    I think an important distinction can be made between current and historical practices... – Tim B Oct 23 at 16:14
  • Lots of comments deleted. Please stay on-topic. The topic of this question is voter suppression, not party positions in general. – Philipp Oct 26 at 8:06

If you're not making a distinction between vote suppression organized by the Democratic Party itself and vote suppression organized by its supporters, then you might find the Texas Attorney General's website interesting. The Texas AG has been aggressively prosecuting numerous cases of vote fraud, including at least one case involving what the AG's office describes as an "organized vote fraud ring" operating in Fort Worth. According to the AG,

Vote harvesting is accomplished generally in two phases: seeding and harvesting. In the seeding phase, applications for mail ballot are proliferated in order to blanket targeted precincts with mail ballots. Then, when ballots are mailed out by the election offices, harvesters attempt either to intercept the ballots outright, or to “assist” elderly voters in voting their ballots while ensuring that the votes are cast for the candidates of the harvesters’ choice. In most cases, the voters do not even know their votes have been stolen.

An article in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram identifies the Democratic Party as the beneficiary of the scheme.

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    I would make that distinction, but if the supporters are linked closely enough to the Democratic party - eg not the NBPP as in another (deleted) answer - I think it would still make for a good answer. But I wouldn't consider voter fraud to be voter suppression, and I don't see that this case (if it existed as presented) is linked in any way to the Democratic party. – tim Oct 23 at 18:23
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    @tim Vote fraud is usually limited in its impact, but in this case they were systematically stealing, altering, or influencing ballots for targeted neighborhoods. Sounds like suppression to me. – TKK Oct 23 at 18:26
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    OK, that makes sense. It seems that this is about 16 cases, but you are right that the vote of the affected people has been suppressed (if the case is indeed as laid out; I couldn't find any information apart from what you linked, and I'm a bit skeptical about the source; and there is of course still the question if/how this is linked to Democrats; hopefully we will know more in the future). – tim Oct 23 at 18:37
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    Seems debatable. If you look into actual caught and prosecuted cases of voter fraud, just about every one of them is done by fraudulently filling out absentee ballots. Further, its almost always in service of artificially pumping up the vote totals of a specific candidate, rather than an entire slate. This completely fits that pattern, so it really makes far more sense to consider it vote fraud like all those other cases. The FWST certainly reported it that way. – T.E.D. Oct 23 at 20:44
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    The Star-Telegram article actually doesn't appear to say that the Democratic Party were the beneficiaries. It does say that it was Democratic primaries that were affected, but that could be a plus or a minus to the party. – DJClayworth Oct 24 at 14:42

TalkingPointsMemo is hosting several articles in a series about voter suppression. The series covers a lot of history about suppression and outright fraud, and most of the cases are at the hands of (surprise!) the GOP, targeting minority voters. But there is a notable exception in the series, which discusses Chicago around the middle of the 20th century (timeline isn't too clear) in which fraud, coercion, and suppression are used to favor Democrat candidates.

This is citing Don Rose as the source of the info, who was a leftist political activist beginning in the 40's, followed by many decades of civil rights activism and similar work.

Cheating at elections had long been a Chicago tradition. According to Don Rose, a longtime liberal Chicago campaign consultant, the old paper ballots had offered all sorts of opportunities for trickery. But even after the city switched to voting machines there were ways to rig the system. If a voter tried to pull down one of the machine’s small levers, registering a Republican exception to a straight Democratic ticket, a strategically placed rubber band could bounce it back up again. The party bought votes with turkeys and nylon hosiery, and threatened public housing residents with eviction if they didn’t toe the line. Using laws designed to help people with disabilities, election judges “assisted” voters who were actually able-bodied. This required the presence of both a Republican and a Democratic election judge, but, Rose said, “you have to remember that in a tremendous number of precincts, usually in the black neighborhoods, the alleged Republican judges were really Democrats.” Judges could also simply call in the wrong totals. At least once, Rose said, that happened at gunpoint.

The story about dead people voting in Chicago isn’t wrong, Rose said, but it was never the most common method, making up “10 or 15 percent of the total steal.”

- Rick Perlstein And Livia Gershon | August 16, 2018

https://talkingpointsmemo.com/feature/stolen-elections-voting-dogs-and-other-fantastic-fables-from-the-gop-voter-fraud-mythology

Note: There is a bit longer version of the above in another article by one of the authors at https://washingtonspectator.org/gop-voting-fraud-election-2016/

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    I wouldn't describe the tactics used by Chicago (and other) Democrats as "suppression". Quite the opposite: it extended the franchise even to those who were dead :-) See "graveyard vote" for more info. – jamesqf Oct 24 at 3:40
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    @jamesqf makes a really good point. While they are both definitely shenanigans, vote fraud and voter suppression are two very different things, and should not be confused. The question was asking about suppression, and this answer only provides examples of fraud. – T.E.D. Oct 24 at 21:14
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    @jamesqf, The rubber band in the voting machine canceling a Republican vote would be both vote suppression and vote fraud. – agc Oct 26 at 11:32
  • @T.E.D., Vote fraud is a felony, and we have constitutional amendments against vote suppression, describing those serious crimes with an endearing term like "shenanigans" draws a false equivalence implying those crimes are harmless misdemeanors. – agc Oct 26 at 11:40
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    @jamesqf, Any intentionally uncounted vote is a suppressed vote. – agc Oct 27 at 10:44

The primary way that the Democratic party suppresses the vote is by clumping. For example, in Massachusetts, there is roughly one Republican for every three Democrats by voter registration. Yet there are no Republican members of Congress from Massachusetts. If Republicans had as much representation as their share of the two-party registration, they would have two or three Representatives. Even if Republicans only had as much share as their overall percentage of registrations, that would be still be at least one. And of course, Democrats would be reduce from nine to three. Because unaffiliated voters make up a majority of the voters in Massachusetts.

This also has an effect because it makes elections uncompetitive in Democratic areas. Much has been made of California's huge lean towards Democrats. But again, Republicans get about a third of the vote but only a quarter of the seats. And in many elections, like Senate, governor, and president, California is completely noncompetitive. So there is little incentive for Republicans to vote. Lopsided elections reduce turnout.

It's true that these effects cut both ways. In places where Republicans clump, it's Democrats whose vote is suppressed. But the truth is that the most partisan areas are controlled by Democrats. And with Democrats, there are usually Democrat enclaves within the Republican areas. For example, Texas is a Republican state. But Houston, Dallas, and Austin all have Democrat mayors and Representatives. Fort Worth, San Antonio, and El Paso may not have Democratic mayors but still have Democratic Representatives.

Of the fourteen Representatives from New York City, only one is a Republican. Republicans who live in other districts don't have the same opportunity to cast votes that count.

Both Democrats and Republicans benefit from the two-party system, but the Democrats benefit more. The two-party system forces people to pick one side or the other. We can again see this by looking at Massachusetts. There, a majority of voters are unaffiliated. They should have four or five Representatives but actually have none. Democrats get all of the seats despite only making up a third of registrations.

Democrats also apportion and district seats by total population rather than voter eligible population. So someone who lives in a district with many children and disenfranchised felons has a vote that counts more than those in older, less criminal districts.

One could say that these are demographic problems. That's true. But they remain addressable. If we adopted proportionality, then seats would be distributed based on the number of people who vote. We could get rid of the census, redistricting, and taxpayer financed primaries altogether. There would just be one big election via proportional means (e.g. single transferable vote). Candidates could continue to be limited to states, but apportionment would happen as part of the election. That would incent all groups to participate.

Instead, Democrats came up with efficiency gap analysis, which suppresses third party votes, doesn't fix Massachusetts, California, and other partisan Democrat states, but does help Democrats in Republican states.

Proportional voting would make it easier for minorities and women to win as well. Because they could clump together to vote for their candidates. As is, Massachusetts is represented by seven white men and two white women. Under proportionality, that might be more even by gender with two or three minority Representatives.

Clumping combines with partisan primaries to increase polarization also. Because electability doesn't matter in a clumped district. Even an obviously unqualified candidate can expect to win the general election after winning the correct primary. And it's much easier to win a primary than a general election. Because primaries only include a partisan group of voters, they tend to produce candidates who are ideologically in the middle of that subset rather than the population as a whole. Meanwhile, if offered the choice, the voters excluded from the primary would prefer the more moderate candidate.

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    The first part is Gerrymandering, right? While AFAIK Republicans are much more successfull in Gerrymandering, Democrats do indeed do it. But while unethical and not all that democratic, I wouldn't really consider this voter suppression. The two-party system also seems less than ideal, but is definitely not voter suppression. – tim Oct 24 at 6:58
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    Yes and no. Wouldn't "clumping" be the only way possible for a Republican to get elected? If the population were fairly homogeneously distributed and the boundary lines were drawn in a normal geometric way, the GOP would get outvoted 3 to 1 in each and every election for each and every district or seat. Now, that's not the way populations actually distribute, but a 3 to 1 margin would suggest that no seats would/could be an expected outcome without any gerrymandering. – PoloHoleSet Oct 24 at 21:41
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    Clumping is not gerrymandering. Clumping is where Democrats live in Massachusetts and Republicans live in Utah. Gerrymandering can exacerbate clumping. And the essential problem here is that liberals are happy to notice when the votes of their allies are suppressed but completely willing to ignore it when their opponents' votes are suppressed. This is much like Republicans, who find worries about voter fraud (e.g. the 50,000 people whose voter registrations don't match other databases in Georgia) more important than expansive voter registration (the other databases may be wrong). – Brythan Oct 24 at 22:30
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    I think you're right that in states like Massachusetts the democratic party benefits far more from the 2 party system than the Republican party - because the independent voters are voting for democrats. Proportional voting would force people to actually affiliate with one of those parties: most likely with the one they most agree with. Trying to predict the outcome of a proportional vote without accounting for the re-registration that it would cause is quite misleading. – Rick Oct 25 at 12:55
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    "Both Democrats and Republicans benefit from the two-party system, but the Democrats benefit more." Not the case. Dems have to win 7% more votes just to be a tossup in the House, and the Electoral college is nearly as bad. Senate is actually worse. – Swiss Frank Oct 25 at 18:33

One specific case is Louisiana. This page shows that Democrats controlled all levels of government from roughly 1878 - 1980.

During that time, the state enforced many Jim Crow voter suppression tactics.

A specific example is the Lousiana Literacy Test from the 1960s. That test asked questions that were designed to give the white registrar assessing the test wide latitude in passing or failing anyone. It was used primarily to fail blacks trying to register to vote. More on that test here.

Some example questions:

  1. Draw a line around the number or letter of this sentence.
  2. Draw a line under the last word in this line.
  3. Cross out the longest word in this line.
  4. Draw a triangle with a blackened circle that overlaps only its left corner.
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    Please see my response to a similar answer. These are really the same sort of people enacting laws for the same sorts of reasons, just under a different name. If you have examples from 1980, that would be different, but Jim Crow is not what I'm looking for. – tim Oct 23 at 19:25
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    @tim If you're going to ignore evidence that the Democratic Party engages in the same behavior, why ask the question the way you did? You should ask, "Are there examples of anyone besides white males engaging in voter suppression," which would make your "same sort of people" comment explicit and would preempt the answers you're getting about parties rather than people. – birch Oct 23 at 20:13
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    I'm not. I upvoted the answer by @CoedRhyfelwr and plan to accept it in a day or two if no better answer comes along. I don't have specific statistics, but my guess would be that the Democratic party is also primarily white and male, so phrasing it like that wouldn't be what I'm looking for. In either case, "engages" seems like the wrong tense here, and while I could have been explicitly asking about the modern Democratic party, I think it was clearly implied. The number of comments and answer on this topic suggests that isn't the case though, so I updated my question. – tim Oct 23 at 20:20
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    @birch Well, Democrats controlled both chambers and the presidency for a while; I think they had a number of chances for further suppression since the 50s/60s which they didn't take (or couldn't take without changing their policy; suppressing the white male vote is probably more difficult than suppressing minority votes). My takeaway for now is that voter suppression is mostly a tool of white dominance (historically, by either party). That's not to say that either party doesn't use other tools than voter suppression to solidify gained power, but that's a broader topic. – tim Oct 23 at 21:48
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    @birch - That would be misleading, because people who aren't white men (in particular, some white women) have engaged in voter suppression on the basis of race, and in any case white men can, potentially engage in voter suppression for non-racist reasons. The "same sort of people" probably refers more to anti-black racists and their affiliates, who find a more comfortable home in the Republican Party these days. – Obie 2.0 Oct 23 at 21:57

"In 2009, The Department of Justice sued members of the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense (a group unaffiliated with the Black Panther Party of the 1960s) for brandishing a "police-style baton" to intimidate voters outside a Philadelphia polling station during the 2008 presidential election" (source: http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2009/January/09-crt-014.html)

I live in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and this type of voter intimidation continues to occur at my polling place. During the 2016 election I had to navigate quite a gauntlet to submit my vote. Although there was no evidence of batons or other weapons present, the seemingly organized group appeared to apply intimidation tactics solely on racial rather than political party affiliation.

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    The NBPP is a hate group that is not aligned with the Democratic party, so this isn't really what I'm looking for. – tim Oct 23 at 19:28
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    @tim It's quite tenuous to assert that they aren't 'aligned' with the Democratic party. They aren't controlled by the Democratic party, but they certainly appeared to be supporting them. – reirab Oct 23 at 21:57
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    @reirab Remember there are actual self-proclaimed Nazis and Klansmen who support Trump. Does that mean they are aligned? – Alexander O'Mara Oct 23 at 23:55
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    @reirab So you're just arguing semantics for the heck of it, or is there a point you are trying to make? – Alexander O'Mara Oct 24 at 1:38
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    @reirab But support doesn't equal alignment, in either direction really. I'm not convinced either group is aligned to any significant degree. Also, it looks like the charges weren't entirely dismissed, just narrowed to the person they felt they actually had a case against. The NBPP also suspended the responsible chapter. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… – Alexander O'Mara Oct 24 at 18:30

protected by Philipp Oct 24 at 8:41

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