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Doug Jones is right: Republicans have made it harder for minority voters

You stop it, Terry Lathan.

“Stop it” has become a favorite catchphrase of late for Lathan, the Alabama Republican Party chairwoman. She’s used it repeatedly on social media to defend Donald Trump and to attack Alabama Sen. Doug Jones.

Normally, I would ignore such partisan nonsense — it is, after all, Lathan’s job to help get Republicans elected — but her latest efforts have been joined by Secretary of State John Merrill, and they’ve reached a level of absurdity that is mind-boggling.

Lathan and Merrill have continued to attack Jones over the senator’s recent comments in which he stated he doesn’t believe leadership at the state level in many Republican-dominated states want African Americans and other minority voters to be able to vote.

“You are either totally unplugged on voter registration facts or you believe this nonsense,” Lathan wrote in a recent op-ed aimed at Jones.

At a recent Republican Party gathering in Vestavia, Merrill promised to “bust (Jones) in the chops” over his comments.

That’s big talk from two people who are, without a shadow of a doubt, 100 percent wrong.

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When Jones spoke of state legislatures and governors working to prevent minority voter participation, he was not specifically focusing on this state, but rather on the larger, national movement by GOP-dominated states. Alabama was certainly among that group, but it merely participated in a larger movement that involved virtually identical pieces of legislation in multiple states.

That legislation established a variety of voting roadblocks — so targeted towards minorities in some states that a federal court described them as “surgical” — all aimed at requiring more effort from mostly minority voters.

Things like state-issued photo IDs and decreased registration times and lengthening the cutoff dates for registering prior to an election. Some states allowed hunting licenses to be used but not college IDs. Others closed on-campus polling locations and shuttered polling areas in minority districts.

And at least one state — Alabama — required photo IDs and then shut all of the driver’s license offices in majority black counties.

But even if Alabama’s photo ID law had been followed by the closure of driver’s license offices, it still would have been a horribly racist law that more than proved Jones’ point.

Now, before we go any further, let me also say this: I have previously praised Merrill for his office’s work in making sure a bad voting law wasn’t as bad. His efforts to provide registration services has gone well above what was required under the law, and it is the primary reason that Alabama’s ID law has been allowed by federal courts to remain intact.

That said, one small right doesn’t negate a larger wrong. And this is where Doug Jones is 100 percent accurate.

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As Merrill testified before Congress recently, Alabama does not have a problem with impersonation voter fraud. It has never had such a problem.

In fact, in the 25 years prior to Alabama passing its photo ID law in 2014, there had been one documented case of impersonation fraud in the entire state. And that one incident — in which one sister used the other’s license to cast a vote — wouldn’t have been prevented by the photo ID law.

But as Merrill also testified, there are thousands upon thousands of incidents of voter fraud each election. Most of them are absentee ballot fraud. The others are poll workers and election officials committing fraud.

And yet, the only law passed in this state to prevent election fraud addressed only the type of fraud that doesn’t exist.

So, why did the legislature pass a law to address a problem that didn’t exist?

Because ID laws disproportionately affect minority voters.

Minority voters make up the largest percentage of voters who lack a government-issued photo ID.

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And no matter how simple you might make it to get that photo ID, it’s one more hoop that a minority voter — likely a Democratic voter — will have to jump through in order to cast a ballot. It’s one more deadline they’ll have to meet, one more document they’ll have to obtain, one more day of work it’ll cost them.

To solve a problem that doesn’t exist.

That’s why Doug Jones said what he did, and it’s why he was right to say it.  

So, please, spare me the phony outrage and the woe-is-me antics. If you don’t like to have your party called out for racist behavior, there’s an easy solution.

Just stop it.


Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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