The Electoral Boogieman: Voter Suppression Dirty Tricks

Lexis/nexis search results for "voter suppression", graphed over time.

Lexis/nexis search results for “voter suppression”, graphed over time.

I set out to look into voter suppression in terms of political communication, and ended up finding something a bit odd — while systematic disenfranchisement is very real, the kind of “I can’t believe they did that!” suppression we hear about in the news appears to be largely a made-up problem. Something which a handful of amateur would-be election riggers engage in, and which professional communicators then seize upon as a resource for fundraising and partisan mobilization.

My storify: http://storify.com/jwkendall/keeping-out-the-vote

How do we know? A simple Google search. When you hunt for “voter suppression” and, say, “flyers”, you get a handful of results, and most of what you find is a lot like the three examples shown here: http://www.solarbus.org/stealyourelection/voter-suppression-flyers.html

Quite honestly, those all seem like the sorts of things some bored, pissed-off crackpot would come up with on a Sunday afternoon. What’s more, I suspect their largest impact on elections comes not through vote suppression, but through the indignation such efforts inspire. Anger is a valuable commodity in the polarized political world.

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