This presidential election is characterized by an unusual tension about what could happen on Tuesday. High expectations regarding who will win an election that seems to be increasingly disputed are natural. What is new is the unsettling feeling that threats, intimidation and suppression against Latino and African-American voters may arise.
This year, several factors combine to create this possibility. On the one hand, in 2013 the Supreme Court eliminated an important part of the Voting Rights Act that established federal oversight, with the argument that “our country has changed.” On the other, is Republican candidate Donald Trump’s message that the election is rigged and that there is widespread electoral fraud and his call to his followers to be vigilant about who turns up at voting sites.
Some are anticipating that Trump followers will harass Latino voters, particularly naturalized immigrants, at some voting sites, thanks to the lie of voter fraud among the undocumented. At the same time, white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups are getting ready to suppress the vote of African-Americans.
The argument of the possibility of electoral fraud, which practically does not exist, is embedded into the genetics of Republicans to discourage the vote of minorities, who tend to be Democratic. Cases of intimidation with guards threatening people at voting locations have frequently been seen in the past.
This year, it is also manifested in the new voting laws approved by several Republican-led states making the most of the Supreme Court’s decision, which dilutes the defense of minority voters.
North Carolina is the best example. The state reduced early voting hours in three counties with high percentages of African-American voters, and the number of voting booths was reduced in 17 counties; one of them went from 16 booths to one. That is the reason why in-person attendance has gone down, especially among African-Americans. Out of the 21,560 votes cast on the first two days of 2012, it decreased to 3,295 this year, an 85% drop.
The vote of minorities is already being suppressed today.
Trump’s message that, if he loses, it will be due to fraud, and his feverish followers – who are motivated by a nativist and racist message and who want to decide who can vote and who cannot – are a time-bomb that we hope will not explode on Tuesday.