House Democrats to look for more evidence of voter suppression
WASHINGTON — House Democrats plan to expand their investigation of possible voter suppression to North Carolina and probably Kansas, the chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee said.
“We’re looking at the most egregious situations,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md.
Cummings said his committee could wind up investigating at least four states as it digs into whether voting rights were routinely suppressed. The committee could hold hearings, subpoena witnesses and use its findings to shape legislation to remedy whatever problems it found.
Georgia’s election practices are already under committee scrutiny. Top committee Democrats last week sent Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger lengthy requests for information about how the state’s 2018 election was run.
Cummings is also looking at Kansas and North Carolina. He would not identify other states.
“We’ve got to look at Kansas probably because Kansas had a situation where they literally moved the voting booths out of the inner city,” he said.
In Dodge City, where 60 percent of residents are Hispanic, Ford County Clerk Debbie Cox moved the city’s only polling place to a building south of the city last year. The Wichita Eagle reported that the polling place could not be reached on sidewalks and was cut off from much of Dodge City by train tracks.
Cox said the move was necessary because of construction.
“We’re going to also look at North Carolina,” Cummings said. He said courts found that state officials “went out and looked to see where African-Americans were voting, and did it with precision to cut them out and deny them the right to vote,” he said.
Cummings did not cite a specific ruling. In 2016, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals invalidated a 2013 North Carolina law that limited voting options and required voters to show ID at the polls.
The judges said the North Carolina limits “target African-Americans with almost surgical precision.” 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of the decision.
Last year, North Carolina voters approved a constitutional amendment requiring IDs for voting. Republican lawmakers wrote the law in December. A Wake County Superior Court judge threw out the amendment last month, declaring that “an illegally constituted General Assembly does not represent the people of North Carolina and is therefore not empowered to pass legislation that would amend the state’s constitution.”
Cummings did not say if he would pursue an inquiry into Georgia’s 2018 election.
Cummings and Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., who heads the House subcommittee on civil rights and civil liberties, have given Georgia’s Kemp and Raffensperger, both Republicans, until March 20 to respond to a March 6 letter requesting information.
The Democrats’ letter notes that while he was Georgia secretary of state from 2010 until his election in November as governor, his office reportedly canceled voter registration for more than 1.4 million people.
Last year, it placed on hold registration applications for 53,000 Georgians, most of them minorities, a few weeks before the election. Kemp rejected Democrats’ claims of voter suppression.
The House Democrats also said in their letter that in some Georgia counties with large minority populations, “voters waited for hours to cast their ballots, even though hundreds of available voting machines sat unused in government warehouses.”
Kemp was running for governor against Stacey Abrams, a Democrat who was seeking to become the nation’s first female African-American governor. Kemp won with 50.2 percent of the vote.
Cummings and Raskin want “all communications related to any voter roll purges.” They’re also looking at “all documents related to your ethical or legal obligations or possible conflicts of interest while simultaneously running for governor and overseeing the state’s elections as Georgia’s secretary of state.”
Cummings said he was not sure what other states he may look into and did not say when further action would be taken. “It’s going to be a while,” he said. “We’re accumulating information.”