Donald Trump is president because of what’s essentially an electoral fluke. Although Hillary Clinton won more votes overall, Donald Trump won the electoral college thanks to his victories in places like Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. A significant chunk of Hillary’s margin of victory over Trump came from votes in places like California, which remains as much a state as the rest of the states making up the U.S. no matter how many Trump shills tried to discredit California voters following the election.
Now, a new report from Mother Jones has highlighted yet again that Trump managing slim victories in Midwestern states and thus winning the electoral college and the presidency is not the whole story.
The publication sums the issue up as follows:
‘There is, of course, no one thing that swung the election… But a year later, interviews with voters, organizers, and election officials reveal that, in Wisconsin and beyond, voter suppression played a much larger role than is commonly understood.’
The controversy in Wisconsin was caused by a highly restrictive voter ID law put in place by the state’s Republican lawmakers. That law, on top of all of the other problems, was acknowledged by an individual instrumental in its creation as making the state lean Republican.
The law mandates that in order for a registered voter to actually be able to cast their ballot in the state, they must present one of a short list of items including a current driver’s license, a passport, or a state or military ID, but there are numerous low income voters who did not have any of those available on this past election day. It’s been well documented that lower income voters, especially those in minority communities, tend to vote Democratic, and coupling that fact with the relatively slim margin by which Trump won Wisconsin suggests a grim answer for why Trump is the current president.
The law was unsurprisingly challenged in the years before 2016’s presidential election, but none of those challenges were enough to stop it from being in place by the time that last year’s presidential election rolled around. In 2011, a federal judge, who temporarily blocked the law, stated that around nine percent of the state’s registered voters didn’t have the appropriate forms of ID.
As that judge, James Peterson, put it:
‘The Wisconsin experience demonstrates that a preoccupation with mostly phantom election fraud leads to real incidents of disenfranchisement, which undermine rather than enhance confidence in elections, particularly in minority communities.’
In 2016, it’s been estimated that tens of thousands of Wisconsin voters didn’t cast ballots in the presidential election because of the strict ID requirements. Trump won the state by a margin of only about 23,000 votes.
University of Wisconsin-Madison political scientist Kenneth Mayer put the number of voters kept away from the polls in just Madison and Milwaukee at between 12,000 and 23,000; Milwaukee’s election director estimated that “somewhere between 10,000 and 15,000 voters” in his city alone “likely did not vote due to the photo ID requirement.”
To be sure, the electoral votes from Wisconsin having gone to Clinton would not have cast the whole election in her favor. Wisconsin has 10 electoral votes, and Trump’s margin of victory was greater than that.
However, that’s not where the story ends.
MIT political scientist Charles Stewart estimates, Mother Jones notes, that there were likely more than 1 million “lost votes” thanks to the fact that Wisconsin was not the only state to have a strict new voter ID law in place during the 2016 election.
Trump, grimly, won the electoral college because of a combined winning margin of only about 78,000 votes in the states of Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
He has, of course, proven no help at all in actually addressing the very real issue of voter suppression in the United States. During the lead-up to the election, Trump claimed that the election was being rigged against him (it wasn’t).
Since his victory in the presidential race, Trump has set up a commission to investigate non-citizen voting that he wrongfully asserts took place during the election, but that commission has unsurprisingly not accomplished anything substantive.
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