Mitch McConnell is terrified of voters.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is freaking out over an effort by Democrats to make elections more fair, and his hometown newspaper noticed. In a scathing editorial, the Lexington Herald-Leader lambasted McConnell for making excuses for voter suppression that sound downright "segregationist."
"Flushed out by Democrats who newly control the House, McConnell increasingly sounds like one of those segregationist lions of yore who roamed the Senate, cloaking their political self-interest in pious bluster about states’ rights and an oppressive federal government," the Herald-Leader editorial board wrote.
McConnell is vehemently opposed to any congressional action which would curb Republican voter suppression efforts. In doing so, the Herald-Leader argued, McConnell "has all but declared that he's against removing barriers to voting and making elections cleaner and more fair because he thinks it would help Democrats win."
The target of McConnell's fear and ire is H.R. 1, the House Democrats' bill to advance national automatic voter registration, safeguard election infrastructure against foreign attackers, and end partisan gerrymandering.
The bill would restore aspects of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which was gutted in a 2013 Supreme Court ruling, in order to protect the right of every citizen to make their voice heard. This is especially important for people of color who have been discriminated against at the ballot box both in the past by Jim Crow laws, and in the present with other voter suppression measures like voter ID laws.
McConnell "spurns the role of Congress" to protect the rights of black Americans and other minorities to vote without fear, the Herald-Leader said, when he smears the idea of restoring voting rights as a "power grab" by Democrats in Congress.
McConnell's "most repugnant" stance, the Herald-Leader argued, is his opposition to any and all efforts to restore voting rights to felons who have served their sentence.
The paper notes that a quarter of Kentucky's black population is permanently barred from voting, and that 312,000 Kentuckians cannot vote because they have previously been convicted of felonies.
While McConnell gives lip service to the idea that states should decide who should be allowed to vote, a poll shows more than 3 in 5 Kentuckians support giving voting rights to formerly incarcerated people.
Republicans, from Trump all the way down to state lawmakers, consistently stoke panic about nonexistent "voter fraud" in order to pass discriminatory measures like voter ID laws, improperly purge voter rolls, and cut back on early voting.
In the 2018 midterm election, Georgia voters faced barriers erected by then-Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who spent years purging mostly black residents from the voter rolls. Kemp narrowly defeated Stacey Abrams, who would have been the first black woman governor in the nation if she had won.
In 2013, North Carolina's Republican-led legislature tried to pass legislation specifically aimed at making it harder for black residents to vote. A federal court struck down the provision, saying the GOP lawmakers targeted black voters "with almost surgical precision."
North Carolina Republicans got caught because they made the racism absurdly obvious, but other states have passed similar measures and gotten away with it.
All of this is why Democrats in Congress are pushing H.R. 1 and other measures to make voting more fair.
But McConnell has already promised to oppose the bill "at every opportunity." He has the power to prevent any House-passed legislation from even coming up for a vote in the Senate, and vowed such a bill "will not pass the U.S. Senate."
The question that Kentuckians — and Americans — should be asking is: Why is Mitch McConnell so afraid of making it easier for people to vote?
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.