For a while over the last two years, our attention was focused on voting rights. After the false claims of voter fraud in the 2020 election, states – particularly predominantly Republican states – used the claims as an excuse to pass restrictive laws, allegedly to make elections more secure, but in reality, to disenfranchise the sort of voters who are more likely to vote for Democrats. These groups include single working moms, Blacks & Hispanics, college students, and low-income families.
I’ve never heard of Robert Spindell before, and unless you live in the state of Wisconsin, you probably never have, either. Spindell is a longtime GOP activist in Wisconsin, and also the chairman of the GOP’s 4th congressional district in Milwaukee. He was one of the fake electors who claimed that Donald Trump won in Wisconsin, and he faces three lawsuits for his role in that attempted fraud. But none of that is why he crossed my radar last night. Here is what he said that brought him to my attention …
“In the City of Milwaukee, with the 4th Congressional District Republican Party working very closely with the RPW, RNC, Republican Assembly & Senate Campaign Committees, Statewide Campaigns and RPMC in the Black and Hispanic areas, we can be especially proud of the City of Milwaukee (80.2% Dem Vote) casting 37,000 less votes than cast in the 2018 election with the major reduction happening in the overwhelming Black and Hispanic areas.”
Bragging about disenfranchising some 37,000 Black and Hispanic voters!!! WTF???
The information was verified by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel …
“Milwaukee had the biggest proportional decline of any municipality in the county… Some 17% fewer ballots were cast in the city than in 2018, a drop off bigger than other communities in the county.”
Spindell was so proud that he wanted to take sole credit for the decline in voters, claiming it was a result of his “well thought out multi-faceted plan,” that included …
“Biting Black Radio Negative Commercials run last few weeks of the election cycle straight at Dem Candidates, and a substantial & very effective Republican Coordinated Election Integrity program resulting with lots of Republican paid Election Judges & trained Observers & extremely significant continued Court Litigation.”
One conservative commentator, James Wigderson, says that …
“It’s as if the cruelty is the point. If Spindell had been in charge of elections during Jim Crow, he would’ve bragged about literacy tests and poll taxes suppressing the Black vote.”
But the fact is that what Spindell said was just saying what most Republicans were thinking but not saying. Voter suppression has rather fallen onto the back burner of our attention of late, but believe me, friends, it’s still very much alive and well. In my own state, a new voter suppression bill was signed into law just last month that will make it harder for the disabled and the elderly to vote. We have no excuse absentee voting, but they are limiting ballot drop boxes to one per county, and demanding a photo ID even from absentee voters, something that has never been required in all my years of voting in this state. Until now, we’ve only had to provide a signature for comparison purposes and either a social security or driver’s license number to request a ballot.
And if 37,000 people were disenfranchised in Milwaukee alone, then …
Granted, mid-term elections typically draw fewer voters than presidential elections, but still … this one was more relevant than most mid-terms and more people understood the stakes, so … what did happen to those 46 million voters? Suppressive voter laws, apathy, or something else?
Spindell isn’t the only one working hard to keep voters away from the polls. The conservative Heritage Foundation based in Washington, D.C., spent more than $5 million in 2021 lobbying for laws to block voting rights. The foundation has a two-year strategy to spend $24 million in just eight states to press Republican-controlled legislatures to impose strict restrictions on voting, including limits on mail-in voting and early voting days.
Numerous states have either passed or are pursuing even more restrictive measures to disenfranchise certain groups, mainly the poor, Blacks, Hispanics, and college students. There are many members of Congress, primarily found in the Republican Party, who merely pretend to bend to the will of the people while working to replace democracy with autocracy. The aforementioned Spindell is but one, and a minor player at that, as compared to the likes of Kevin McCarthy, Jim Jordan and others who wield some very real power. Some of those even sit on the highest court in the land, the U.S. Supreme Court.
Last year, Congress had an opportunity to pass significant voting rights legislation, the Freedom to Vote Act and the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, but both were blocked in the Senate last January. I would say it’s time to try again, but with McCarthy et al having taken over control of the House and being genuinely afraid of losing at least 1/3 of their seats if every person 18 and older could vote, it would be a waste of time and money. Any improvement in voting rights for the moment will have to come at the state level.
Meanwhile, let’s keep this at the forefront of our minds, let’s not miss any opportunity to let our elected officials at all levels know that this is important to us! The right to vote was better protected 50 years ago than it is today! And as for Mr. Spindell … the world really does not need people like him.