Both presidential candidates Trump and Clinton are discrediting the elections. Trump repeatedly claims election fraud is afoot. He focuses on voter fraud by individuals, targeting immigrants in particular. He has called for his supporters to go to the polls to challenge voters, which they are free to do. He has also called into question the results themselves, indicating Clinton and her allies could rig the election and he may not accept the outcome if he does not win. One of the super political action committees (super PAC) carrying out fundraising for Trump is even called “Stop the Steal.” He persists in claiming fraud by voters is an important issue, even though prosecutions for voter fraud are rare. Only 31 cases of voter impersonation out of a billion votes cast have been exposed. The Trump aim is to sow doubt, not guarantee the right to vote.
Hillary Clinton has filed lawsuits concerning voter intimidation in four “battleground states” – Ohio, Arizona, Nevada and Pennsylvania. The lawsuits contend Trump and his supporters are “conspiring to threaten, intimidate, and thereby prevent minority voters in urban neighbourhoods from voting.” The lawsuits cite the 1965 Voting Rights Act and the 1871 Ku Klux Klan Act. The effort here is to make Clinton appear concerned about voter suppression, especially the voting rights of African Americans. The limiting of the suits to only four states, leaving out states like North Carolina, Texas and Florida where government officials are acting to disenfranchise voters, indicates Clinton’s actions, like Trump’s, are self-serving, to sow doubt about the outcome rather than extend and guarantee the right to vote.
Actions by both candidates have as a main impact the discrediting of elections, increasing the possibility of federal intervention in contradiction with various state authorities. Both candidates ignore the main ways voters are disenfranchised. This includes voter registration laws aimed at blocking African Americans especially and working people more generally from voting. A large portion of eligible voters are not allowed to vote because they are not registered.
From its beginning, the U.S. set-up has served to block people from voting – not ensure the right to vote. Today, one way this occurs is through strict voter ID laws, which have been imposed in fourteen, mainly southern states. The North Carolina National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), for example, filed a federal lawsuit on October 31, seeking an immediate injunction to stop the state and various county boards of elections from illegally canceling the registrations of thousands of voters, disproportionately impacting African Americans.
According to a 2010 study, voter suppression includes blocking more than 5.8 million prisoners and ex-prisoners from voting countrywide with almost 600,000 disenfranchised in Florida alone. This suppression disproportionately impacts African Americans who contend with racist mass incarceration nationwide. Removing voters from the rolls, limiting the number of polling places and moving them on Election Day, which causes longer lines and frustration, are other means to disenfranchise voters. These are all far more serious problems that voters face in the struggle to affirm their right to vote than the few cases of individual fraud. But the two candidates are not addressing these systemic problems arising from government actions not individuals.
Why then the focus on voter fraud and voter intimidation? It serves to discredit the elections even further in conditions where people are already angry about the situation. Targeting particular states, as both Trump and Clinton are doing, opens the possibility of calling for more federal intervention to ensure the elections are “fair.” This possibility is underlined by the actions of the Department of Justice (DoJ). The DoJ commonly sends hundreds of observers and poll watchers to various polling stations across the country, as a means to prevent voter intimidation. In 2012, the DoJ sent 780 specially trained observers to polling places in 51 jurisdictions in 23 states. This year a much smaller number will go to less than five states. For the 14 states with strict new laws, mostly requiring special ID to present at the polls as well as additional registration requirements, the DoJ will not send any observers.
With the likelihood of untrained forces from both the Clinton and Trump campaigns being at the polls where new laws are being implemented in addition to the long history of serious attacks on the right to vote mostly by state officials, the DoJ has decided to be absent. In this way, the DoJ can blame the states for any confusion, disruptions and claims of fraud at the polls.
Together with the widespread discrediting of the election by both candidates, this provides a means to justify a federal takeover of elections, or at least more federal intervention in them. It opens a space for the federal government to occupy, presenting changes to the electoral set-up as being more democratic while in fact blocking the people from themselves changing the set-up to favour their empowerment. Further usurping power from the states is also consistent with the direction of a Commander-in-Chief as leader and holder of police powers for the country. It also creates a civil war scenario, if and when states refuse to accept federal control.
In the U.S, for the presidency to be able to control the many policing agencies is no small matter, especially those currently controlled by the cities, counties and states, including the state National Guard. Within the military itself, splits have appeared as seen by the various Generals and Admirals backing either Clinton or Trump. A traditional job of the president is to unite the divisions within the military forces to preserve the union and present a united front of the imperialist rich capable of blocking the working people from coming to power.
In today’s circumstances, it appears the hope of the ruling imperialists is to impose a Commander-in-Chief of the police power that is recognized as a necessary, even indispensable commander of the working people. In this way they would succeed in preserving the union while demobilizing the people from opposing the destruction of a government of laws and accepting a government of police power, a militarized police state.
A direction for the state that relies on police power outside a government of laws is unstable, destructive and dangerous. A new direction for political affairs is urgently needed. The people organized to defend their individual and collective interests and the rights of all can mobilize their peers to take up practical politics and wage a conscious battle for a pro-social direction that empowers the people and brings into being an anti-war government.
(Voice of Revolution)