In 2021, Republicans passed 34 laws in 19 states that would make it harder for people to vote.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) complained on Tuesday that Democratic efforts to protect the right to vote are really just about making Republicans look racist. And though GOP-run states passed dozens of bills to make it harder to vote in just the past year, he said the issue is completely "manufactured."
Mere days after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and his office tried to gaslight the nation into believing Republican state legislators were not trying to suppress voting rights, Graham made similar comments in a Senate floor speech.
"As to voting rights itself, I think this is the most hyped, manufactured issue in a long time," the South Carolina Republican argued. "It's not a problem in search of a solution, it's a manufactured problem."
Graham then defended efforts in some states to change voting laws to require photo identification in order to vote by mail, before accusing Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of trying "to basically say that Republicans, at our heart, are a bunch of racists when it comes to voting."
Schumer (D-NY) is threatening to propose changes to the Senate's cloture rules if Graham and other Republicans won't stop filibustering the John Lewis Voting Rights Advance Act — a bill to revive preclearance requirements for states and localities with a recent history of racist voting laws.
Graham has a history of denying that systemic racism is even a problem in the United States.
In 2014, he was caught on tape telling members of a private, all-male club in Charleston, "If I get to be president, white men in male-only clubs are going to do great in my presidency."
After calling former President Donald Trump "a race-baiting, xenophobic religious bigot" in 2015, Graham defended Trump against racism charges in 2018 and 2019. Last month, Graham described Trump as "the most consequential Republican in the entire Republican Party."
Contrary to Graham and McConnell's claims, Republicans across the country have indeed been actively working to suppress the vote.
Last month, the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University documented at least 34 laws enacted in 2021 that will make it harder for Americans to vote in 19 states — 17 of which are run by a GOP governor and/or a GOP state legislative majority.
"To suggest that there isn't an effort to undermine our democracy and our voting rights is ignoring reality," Sean Morales-Doyle, who oversees the Brennan Center's voting rights and elections program, told the American Independent Foundation. "They are actually denying people the right to vote based on their race — none of us should be OK with that."
Some Republican lawmakers have been candid about their aims.
Last March, GOP Arizona state Rep. John Kavanagh said that his party believes that "everybody shouldn't be voting" and that "quantity is important, but we have to look at the quality of votes."
On Friday, the Republican Party of Texas tweeted out a photo of people waiting to get a COVID-19 test with the words "If you can wait in line for hours for testing ... you can vote in person" and "If you can wait in line for a COVID test, you can wait in line to vote."
In recent years, U.S. courts have found racist intent and effect behind voter suppression and redistricting laws in multiple states. Last September, a North Carolina judicial panel struck down the state's latest strict photo identification requirements, finding that they were "motivated at least in part by an unconstitutional intent to target African American voters." The state Supreme Court has not yet ruled on the matter.
James Peyton McCrary is a historian and lecturer at George Washington University who retired from the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division in 2016. McCrary, who has documented voting rights violations at the state and local level over the past 25 years, listed more than 200 recent violations for the House Judiciary Committee last August.
"Based on my 41 years of experience in voting rights litigation, I believe firmly that strengthening enforcement of the Voting Rights Act is a critical need for our democracy," McCrary told the committee at the time.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.