Why the GOP doesn’t want people of color to vote

Let’s face it, the Republican Party does not want most people of color in Arizona or nationwide to vote.

Why? Because most people of color don’t vote for them.

The so-called “party of Lincoln” may have helped free the slaves, but it has spent the bulk of its history since building a record of discrimination against people of color.

Instead of the party of Abraham Lincoln, the GOP has become “the party of almost all white people.” It’s an image the Republican Party began building in earnest when it decided to oppose passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

That year’s Republican presidential nominee, then-U.S. Sen. Barry Goldwater of Arizona, purportedly opposed the bill on constitutional grounds and not because he was racist. His defenders note that Goldwater had backed earlier civil rights legislation, was a founding member of the Arizona NAACP, and helped establish American Legion Post 41 in South Phoenix when Latino military vets faced discrimination at posts north of Van Buren Street – the city’s racial and ethnic borderline at the time.

Whether Goldwater voted against the Civil Rights Act for racial, political or constitutional reasons – or some amalgam of the three – is a matter of debate, but it doesn’t change the fact that, by the mid-1960s the GOP, thanks in part to Goldwater, had effectively cemented its fate with most minority voters, especially blacks, Latinos and Native Americans.

To be sure, not all Republicans are antagonistic toward people of color. Trouble is, whenever a well-meaning faction of the GOP tries to widen its tent, the party shoots itself in the foot.

There was President Richard Nixon’s infamous 1968 “Southern Strategy,” a move designed to appeal to white voters in Southern states upset over the enactment of the Civil Rights Act by capitalizing on racist attitudes toward blacks. Ronald Reagan’s campaign speeches in 1980 touted the virtues of “states’ rights” and made clear he was picking up where Nixon left off. California Gov. Pete Wilson’s scapegoating of Mexican immigrants in the early 1990s got him re-elected, but ultimately backfired and played a major role in turning that state bright blue. And don’t even get me started on Trump – the most blatantly white supremacist president since Andrew Jackson, whose Indian Removal Act, “perfected the practice” of ethnic cleansing.

For its part, Arizona’s GOP, despite the state’s increasingly purple-hue, still seems hell-bent on alienating voters of color and dooming its fate at the ballot box in 2020 and for years to come.

The latest example comes compliments of State Rep. Kelly Townsend, sponsor of House Bill 2616. The bill would make it a crime for anyone who isn’t employed by a political party to get paid for registering people to vote. Volunteers registering people to vote would also have a harder time of it. The goal, Townsend claims, is to stop voter fraud. Critics say the bill’s goal is really about voter suppression.

Rep. Reginald Bolding, a Democrat who opposes the bill, told his colleagues: “Republicans know, just like Democrats know that the more people who vote, the less likely we will see an extreme Legislature that is forcing policies that don’t reflect the State of Arizona.”

I’ll go a step further: Most Arizona Republicans, especially in the party’s leadership ranks, don’t like that more people of color, young people and women are voting for and electing more people of color, young people and women – along with a respectable number of non-Republican white guys.

Instead of responding to the needs and interests of our state’s evolving constituency, Republicans have opted to make it harder for people who don’t vote for them to cast any vote at all.

That’s more than politics as usual. It’s innately corrupt and anti-democratic. And it’s a GOP practice that has not been confined to Arizona. As Ari Berman, author of the Give Us The Ballot, told NPR ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, “You’re seeing a national effort by the Republican Party to try to restrict voting rights, and it’s playing out in states all across the country.”

Townsend’s bill, incidentally, was hardly the first in this session of the Legislature (or recent sessions) to take aim at Arizona’s increasingly diverse voting base.

In a column last month for this site, Bolding and Rep. Athena Salman, wrote: “Several of our fellow legislators have reacted to last year’s record-breaking voter turnout by filing anti-democracy bills that would make our elections less secure, more inefficient, and less accessible.”

I’ll go a step further: The right to vote is our most hallowed civil right. It is the right from which all other civil rights originate. It is the right upon which all true democracies are built and preserved. It is the right that gives rise to the right of self-determination.

It is also the right above all rights that the GOP should commit never to suppress, since someday the voters getting suppressed could be theirs.

James E. Garcia is a journalist, playwright and communications consultant. He is the editor and publisher of Vanguardia Arizona, which covers Latino news statewide. As a journalist, he has worked as a reporter, columnist, editor and foreign correspondent. He was the first Latino Affairs correspondent for KJZZ, and the first Latino editor of major progressive news weekly in the U.S., The San Antonio Current. James has taught writing, ethnic studies, theater and Latino politics at ASU. He is the producing artistic director of New Carpa Theater Co. and the author of more than 30 plays.


  1. What a pile of Bovine Feces, Mr. Garcia. Your bigoted commentary against Republicans, white males in particular, is so far afield of the truth, it’s laughable. To start, you don’t even know history. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was supported by Republicans 80%-20% in both the House and the Senate. Democrats? Not so much. In the House it was 61%-39%, and in the Senate 66%-34% favorable. So you started your rant with a lie. And it just gets worse. Democrats scream “voter suppression” at the drop of a hat if there is any effort to ensure the integrity of our precious and most “hallowed civil right.” Apparently Democrats, and I assume you are one of them, don’t care about the integrity of the vote. “Everyone has a right to vote” is your battle cry. Republicans agree: Every citizen has a right to vote–once each election. But only citizens, not just anyone with a pulse who happens to be on American soil. Democrats across the country are even pushing for non-citizens and illegal aliens to vote. In some towns and cities this is already happening. Democrats don’t want photo ID to be required and fight that wherever they can. Again, that goes to the heart of the integrity of the vote. Democrats seem to have a low expectation of people of color, that they are incapable of securing a photo ID. Republicans believe everyone is capable enough to acquire one and it’s not too much ask that (and it is law, by the way) in order to vote you properly identify yourself as an American citizen. That’s called voter integrity, not voter suppression.

  2. Wow what a steaming pile excrement this article is. I challenge you to show me any real hard evidence that Republicans don’t want anyone of color to vote. They only people I don’t want to vote are those here I L L E G A L L Y. I don’t care what the color of their skin is if they are ILLEGAL then they do not have the RIGHT to vote for MY President or other federal reps/senators. It is people like you that continue to push the dangerous fairy tale narrative of racial divide when its clear it is the Democrat party and Democrat controlled media that keeps crying wolf when it comes to racism not only disrespecting anyone that has experienced true racism but belittling the heinousness of it as well. Every American citizen should have an ID backed by a real birth certificate and real social that is free and provided by every State Government. Anyone caught using a “fake” ID gets 5 years in prison.

  3. Ron Bellus tries to defend the Republicans but then goes full bozo making ridiculous accusations against the Democrats. Epic failure, Ron.

  4. What we should have is automatic voter registration. Arizona is one of two states (Kansas is the other) that requires proof of citizenship in order to register to vote. That process is included when you get a state ID or driver’s license. So at minimum we should be automatically registering people to vote and updating their address unless the person opts out. Surely Kelly Townsend and other Republicans would want to back such legislation–perhaps it slipped her mind that was a better option than the legislation she has chosen to pursue. Then we don’t have to worry about independent groups registering voters–we can all work on helping make sure they are informed and turn out to vote.


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