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If Republicans Were Serious About Stopping Trump, They Would End Voter Suppression

It’s difficult to take holdouts like John Kasich seriously when they block people from the ballot

At least once a day, I hear someone say or write that Donald Trump will never become president. Usually the person saying it is a liberal. George Clooney, a big Hillary Clinton backer, said it at Cannes recently. Bernie Sanders said it to lead off his rally speech in San Bernardino on Tuesday evening. Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren said it in her remarks at a gala that same night.

I’m tempted to agree. The electoral math is a nightmare for Trump, and, according to one study, he isn’t bringing new GOP voters to the polls. The charlatan also seems determined to try to win the presidency purely on the backs of angry white men. How do you do that in a browning America, one in which voters of color will make more of a difference than ever before? Voter suppression.

The Nation’s Ari Berman made this case recently, arguing that Trump stands to benefit from state laws restricting ballot access — 17 of which may impact a presidential election for the first time in 2016. One of those state laws comes out of my native Ohio, where, in 2014, Governor John Kasich’s administration eliminated the “Golden Week,” an early-voting period when voters could both register and cast a ballot in the time it takes to shop for groceries.

On Wednesday, a federal district court judge ruled that Kasich’s move was illegal, violating both the Constitution and the Voting Rights Act, and ruled to prevent the state from enforcing it prior to November. The judge, a George W. Bush appointee, wrote that cutting early voting and same-day registration “will disproportionately burden African-Americans,” the group hurt most by the elimination of “Golden Week.” This is a victory, but we should keep in mind that a federal ruling of the same type was blocked by the Supreme Court in 2014. We’ll have to see if it stands this time, but for now, it’s a big deal.

Still, upon learning of the ruling, I immediately thought about what happened two days earlier. In letters sent to Republican officials, Kasich instructed his 161 delegates to stay bound to him at the party’s convention in July, despite having suspended his campaign a few weeks ago. From this symbolic move and his public statements, it seems that Kasich may never formally endorse Trump. Asked just last week if he’d consider being Trump’s running mate, Kasich said, “It would be very hard for me, unless he were to change all of his views and become a uniter, for me to get in the middle of this thing.”

It’s rich to see Kasich talk about how much he doesn’t support Trump, given that his anti-voting law, by disenfranchising those more likely to vote against the front-runner, does just that. Having signed a voter suppression law, Kasich might as well be a state chairman for Trump’s campaign. In fact, he and other politicians backing voter suppression laws across the country might be doing more to help him than anyone.

Unless more court rulings rectify legislation like Kasich’s in Ohio, nearly half of the nation will be voting under some kind of restriction imposed by a Republican state government come November. No matter what kind of argument is put forth about “voter fraud” or the like, theses laws were put in place to help Republicans win elections. Now, it seems, a good number of Republicans don’t want the Republican nominee to win. They’ve made their bed; what can they do to avoid lying in it?

To start, the most powerful statement that Republicans could make against Trump would be to abolish all laws restricting access to the vote. Perhaps this could be a form of repentance; imagine Paul Ryan and Ted Cruz running registration drives in black neighborhoods in their states (both of which have voter ID laws). I’m only half-kidding. If Republicans like Kasich are actually serious about stopping Trump, they have to realize that voters of color are their best hope.