Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

John Oliver lays out strategies to keep the GOP from straight-up swiping your vote

John Oliver
John Oliver
Screenshot: Last Week Tonight

Now, nobody’s saying it’s just the Republican Party that’s historically been engaged in a widespread plot to discourage, disenfranchise, and straight-up steal voting rights from Americans because they know that their ideas are shit and that a fair election involving as many people as possible will doom them to Whig-like obscurity and unemployment. Wait, John Oliver is saying that. Like exactly that. Pointing to one Paul Weyrich, founder of right-wing movements like The Heritage Foundation and the perversely named Moral Majority, Oliver played a clip of the late conservative darling saying the quiet part of GOP ruling strategy loud. “I don’t want everybody to vote” (which might as well be the current Republican election motto) was the 1980s-era quote Oliver focused on on Sunday’s Last Week Tonight.

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So what, right? Some long-dead bigot-kook respected Republican strategist says that democracy only works for conservatives when people unlikely to vote for them (meaning primarily non-white) are kept from voting—what’s Oliver bringing up the past for? Well, as the host laid out in breakneck speed (owing to the most important election in our lifetimes being now just 29 days away), that bedrock principle of conservatism, Republicanism, and outright super-villainy is now firmly ensconced as the 2020 GOP plan for keeping their favorite sociopathic, carelessly contagious bigot in power past next January 20.

Undermining voter confidence in historically safe and fraud-free mail-in voting? That’s Trump and company’s main assault on the integrity of the coming election, but hardly, as Oliver spells out in typically alarming detail, the only one. There’s Texas’ transparently vote-suppressing governor, Greg Abbott, who’s trying to reduce drop-off ballot sites to one per county. There are widespread Republican-led state efforts (like the one from blow-dried fraud GOP Georgia Governor Brian Kemp) to close polling places in primarily Black and Latino areas. Oliver showed a clip of one young Black man’s 8-hour wait in the last election there, where he stuck it out by streaming an entire season of Curb Your Enthusiasm and listening to the entire Run The Jewels back catalog before being able to cast his 1 A.M. ballot. There are those Florida poll taxes, various states arbitrarily stringent signature matching policies (that even handwriting experts agree are nonsense), and other elements (such as just plain confusingly elaborate mail-in envelopes) that saw some half-million voters have their very legitimate ballots be rejected in 2018. States are supposed to let you know if they have a question about your signature, but, yeah, they don’t.

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And all that’s without, as Oliver notes, Trump’s open call for his red-capped supporters to just show up at the polls to play unelected, freelance “fucking ballot Batman.” Teaching us about the 1981 consent decree forced upon the GOP for sending armed, off-duty, Republican-friendly cops to Black and Latino-majority polling places to intimidate and discourage voters in the 1981 elections, Oliver, with signature wry disgust, noted that a judge said, in 2018, that those Republicans would never try something so openly fascistic again and lifted the decree. Cue Donald Trump deputizing every unmasked mouth-breather at his super-spreader hate rallies to do exactly that, setting the stage for not only thuggish gangs of MAGA minions to start illegally challenging every non-white voter they see, but, presumably, breathe freely all over everyone attempting to exercise their constitutional rights.

So what (the fuck) can we do? Well, Oliver’s got a plan. Step one: Make a voting plan. Pointing people to sites like the nonpartisan CanIVote.org, Oliver said it’s more imperative than ever to know your state’s procedures, confirm your (likely COVID-changed) polling place, and check your registration. Making your mail-in ballot signature look as close to the one you use on when you’re on your best, DMV or voter registration behavior will help ensure your ballot isn’t tossed, too. Vote early (either by mail or, if available, in person) as early as possible, to “flatten the curve” on vote tallying, since Trump has already signaled his scheme to declare early victory on the basis on day-of voting and then fight every single mail-in vote all the way to the Supreme Court. (Which he;’s attempting to rig.) If your state is one of the 46 that has ballot tracking, use that to ensure your vote has been received and accepted. Those are the sorts of things you have to do in a country where one political party thinks that whole, one person-one vote stuff is just for the rubes.

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Most importantly perhaps, Oliver said people have to prepare themselves for the fact that—like everything else in this benighted year of 2020—nothing about Election Night is going to be as it was. Citing one election official as saying that “election day” is more likely—thanks to the the some 40 percent of mail-in votes expected this year—going to be an “election month,” with the true, legitimately counted tally not being certified until mid- or even late November. And with the GOP’s “12-course tasting menu of bullshit” from Trump, Attorney General William Barr, and others (all Republican, for some reason) concerning the security of mail-in votes (some three million of which have already been cast, disproportionately by Democrats), Oliver concluded by preparing Americans to strap in for one last, desperate attempt by one political party to fingernail-cling to power, even if they take the whole place down in the process.

In addition to CanIVote.org, you can learn everything you need to know about your voting rights and how to make a voting plan at places like Vote.org, FairFight.com, and BetterKnowABallot.com, from Oliver’s pal Stephen Colbert. Election’s in 29 days. Vote. No excuses.

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Contributor, The A.V. Club. Danny Peary's Cult Movies books are mostly to blame.

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