People For the American Way

“Trumptastrophe”: MAGA Republicans and Their Ongoing Attacks on the Right To Vote

News and Analysis
“Trumptastrophe”: MAGA Republicans and Their Ongoing Attacks on the Right To Vote

Welcome to our weekly “Trumptastrophe” series that serves to remind us all of the destructive policies, decisions, and actions we encountered during the Trump presidency and the threats that he and others in the MAGA movement still pose – and to keep those moments clear in our memory as we fight to defeat Republican extremists during the upcoming elections.

This week’s Trumptastrophe brings into focus how Trump and his MAGA Republican allies have fought to make it increasingly difficult for eligible voters to cast their ballot and how they continue their crusade to make it even harder ahead of the 2024 election:

On February 28, 2017, just over a month after Trump was sworn in as president, the Department of Justice abandoned a six-year legal fight against a Texas voter ID law that a federal judge ruled in 2016 illegally discriminated against minority voters. The Justice Department had been arguing that the law was written with the intention of discriminating against minority voters, but switched its position amid “unverified—and widely discredited—claims by Trump that millions of people voted illegally in November,” as NPR reported at the time.

“This signals to voters that they will not be protected under this administration,” said Danielle Lang, deputy director of voting rights at the Campaign Legal Center, which was challenging the Texas law in court.

As voting rights activists feared, the reversal in the Texas case was a clear sign of what was to come. Trump named a number of voter-suppression advocates to a fortunately short-livedcommission on election integrity” that was designed to prove his false claims that he lost the popular vote in 2016 due to voter fraud, and to manufacture justification for voter suppression efforts.

Trump and his allies repeatedly fought and undermined efforts to make sure that all eligible voters had a chance to vote, and that all votes were counted. In 2020, the right-wing majority on the U.S. Supreme Court let Florida Republicans get away with gutting a voter-approved constitutional amendment and imposing a de facto poll tax on people who had been convicted of crimes and completed their sentences.

In 2020, after Trump refused to acknowledge his election defeat and instead tried to overturn the results of the election in key battleground states, respected Supreme Court reporter Joan Biskupic noted that Trump’s attacks on the election results—specifically his teams’ charges that illegitimate Black and Latino voters stole the election from him and his supporters—amounted to an effort to disenfranchise millions of those voters. “Trump’s disregard for the franchise, particularly when it comes to that for Blacks and Latinos, culminated a pattern of scorning democratic norms that began four years ago,” Biskupic wrote.

That disregard didn’t end when Trump boarded a helicopter and fled D.C. rather than attend President Joe Biden’s inauguration. Trump attorney Cleta Mitchell, who took part in the notorious call on which Trump tried to bully Georgia election officials into “finding” the votes he needed to overturn the election, was put in charge of right-wing “election integrity” efforts. Indeed, even though some of Trump’s own officials called the 2020 elections “the most secure in American history,” pretty much the entire MAGA movement teamed up with Republican legislators and governors to continue Trump’s assault on voting rights, using his discredited claims of voting fraud to justify passage of restrictive legislation that they hope will help Trump reclaim the presidency in 2024.

Longtime democracy advocate Fred Wertheimer wrote in 2022 that Trump’s false claims about the stolen election “set off a disastrous domino effect at the federal, state and local levels,” leading to passage of “voter suppression and election sabotage laws.”

In response to those laws, People For the American Way, other voting rights advocates, congressional Democrats, and the Biden administration pushed for passage of stronger federal voting rights protections, but were thwarted by stubborn resistance from MAGA Republicans.

Years after Trump left office, the hundreds of Trump judges sitting on the federal courts have continued to undermine voting rights. In November 2023, legal analyst Ian Millhiser wrote about a couple of recent Trump judge rulings, including an appeals court decision written by Trump Judge David Stras that Millhiser wrote would “virtually destroy the Voting Rights Act” by stripping private parties like voting rights groups from their ability to file lawsuits to enforce the law. People For the American Way’s Paul Gordon called the ruling a “devastating blow” against the VRA.

Speaking to the possibility of another Trump term—and hundreds more Trump judges—Millhiser wrote that “even if this Supreme Court resists these new efforts to destroy the one federal law that likely did more than any other to end Jim Crow, there is a serious risk that the entire law could fall if Republicans — such as Trump himself — get to appoint more judges to the Supreme Court.”

That’s a sobering reminder that as bad as the current Supreme Court majority has been on voting rights, it would certainly get worse if Trump has a chance to add to the Court’s MAGA majority.

People For the American Way is a member of the Declaration for American Democracy coalition, which has identified five types of executive orders that President Biden could issue now to protect this year’s elections from threats including voter suppression and intimidation. People For president Svante Myrick outlined in a recent op ed for The Hill newspaper, writing, “As someone who has run for and held office and believes deeply in the good that government can do for real people, I desperately want our democracy to survive this next election. President Biden needs to act now to shore up our democratic institutions because we can’t afford to leave any options on the table.”

These are just some of the reasons we need YOU in this fight. So, find your favorite way to unwind after reading through this week’s recap, and then make a plan for how you will fight back this week, this month, this election cycle.


MAGA, Trump, voting rights