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Journalist and author Ari Berman joins Lindsay Beyerstein for a special Election Day edition of The Breach about Berman’s Mother Jones cover story, “Rigged: How Voter Suppression Threw Wisconsin to Trump.” Wisconsin voter participation plunged after conservatives’ voter-suppression tactics took effect, and in the end, the key swing state went to Donald Trump by just over 20,000 votes. Lindsay and Ari discuss how voter ID laws have become modern-day poll taxes and why we can’t rely on the courts to safeguard the openness and impartiality of our elections.
An edited excerpt:
Lindsay: How have the priorities changed now that Jeff Sessions has taken over the Justice Department in terms of voting rights?
Ari Berman: Well, the Justice Department has just completely changed positions. They’ve gone from, under President Obama, fighting voter ID laws and fighting voter purges, and fighting cutbacks in early voting, to supporting them. And there are two really important cases, the Texas voter ID law and the Ohio voter purge case, which are going before the Supreme Court, where Jeff Sessions’ Justice Department has already reversed the Obama administration’s opposition to these kinds of things. Not only that, Jeff Sessions said in an oversight hearing for the Senate that the DOJ is coordinating with Chris Kobach’s “Election Integrity Commission,” which—Kobach’s commission is supposed to be an advisory commission—they’re not supposed to be working, at least without full disclosure, with the Justice Department, and with the Department of Homeland Security. So it also seems like there is some sort of coordination between the Justice Department and Kobach’s commission, which, I think, is very worrisome.
Sessions is also someone himself with a very long history of opposition to voting rights ever since he was a U.S. attorney in Alabama in the 1980s, and he actually prosecuted African Americans for trying to help people cast absentee ballots, which was a very, very controversial trial at the time, and one of the reasons why he was blocked as a federal judge in 1986. So I think the Justice Department under Sessions is one of the clearest examples of a real sea change between the Obama administration and the Trump administration.
“The Hillary Clinton Russia Uranium One Conspiracy Theory Doesn’t Make Any Sense,” by Zachary Fryer-Biggs for Newsweek, October 2017
“Watch MSNBC’s Joy Reid Expertly Debunk Lies Around Uranium-Clinton Story,” by Daniel Politi for Slate, October 2017