“We do not yet have a system that makes it easier for the population to vote”

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Henry Brady, a specialist in electoral methodology, is the Dean of the Faculty of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley.

The November 3 election reignited the debate on “voting suppression”. What is it about ?

This is the name given to the set of techniques that can be used to limit voter turnout. Some are aimed at making voter registration more difficult, knowing that in the United States, unlike many other countries, it is the voter who is responsible for registering. Others seek to make the voting process itself more difficult: not to provide for the possibility of postal voting, which forces people to go to the polls; reduce the number of polling stations, only open them on election day, although the majority of states have now introduced an early voting facility.

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What is at the roots of this American uniqueness?

We have always had a very decentralized electoral system. States, especially in the South, wanted to control the voting system at county or even township level [quartier]. After the civil war and reconstruction, election officials were able to make arbitrary decisions to ensure that African Americans were excluded from the vote. These practices are no longer so openly directed against this or that racial group, but against political groups. It should be noted that it is especially in the Republican constituencies that the attempt is made to limit the vote.

While the Democrats rather have an interest in seeing participation increase?

Not necessarily. Most research shows that increasing turnout does not automatically work in favor of one party or another, even if there are exceptions. When it comes to postal voting, in any case, there is strong evidence that it does not give one party an advantage over the other. On this point, President Trump [qui s’en prend depuis des mois au « vote by mail »] is totally wrong. It is not true that Republicans are disadvantaged by postal voting. Overall, neither party appears to be advantaged or handicapped. But there are a number of places where Republicans are actually aided by postal voting.

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Are the current Republican attacks part of this “suppression of the vote”?

Postal voting was not a particularly important issue. But there is now concern, because of the epidemic. If people are unable to go to the polls and seek to fill out a ballot by mail, the fear is that they will be prevented from doing so because some states have decided not to facilitate this process.

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