This week’s film featured in the Voting Rights Film Series is “Rigged: The Voter Suppression Playbook.”
The movie is narrated by Jeffrey Wright, who stated the core tenant to America’s democracy -- “one person, one vote” -- is being attacked through voter suppression.
He went through nine different plays or tactics by which voter suppression takes place – shedding light on suppression in many states throughout the United States and giving a voice to people involved on both sides and within each party.
The playbook highlights voter suppression after the 2008 election of President Barack Obama and continues into the current presidency of Donald Trump.
The plays, strategies and tactics involved in voter suppression included “Project Roadmap,” “Gerrymandering: Cracking and Packing,” “Voter Restriction Laws,” “Gut the Voting Rights Act,” “Voter Fraud: Leverage the Big Lie,” “Voter Poll Purges,” “Voter Intimidation," “Voter ID Déjà vu” and “Change the Courts.”
Each play seemed to work together through a sort of procession – emphasizing how Republicans have taken control of the legislature and are working into the judicial system as a means to keep the status quo in place.
According to Republican Political Strategist Chris Jankowski, “Project Roadmap” leveraged money from national donors such as the Koch brothers and invested the money in state legislative races.
The money invested led to attack ads against democratic candidates – notably of former North Carolina state senator Margaret Dickinson who was depicted as a prostitute in one of these ads.
The second play involved the literal redrawing of districts on a map using census data collected every ten years. According to the film, this play involved “packing” and “cracking” minorities in or out of districts.
The third play covered voter restriction laws, and the film heavily focused on laws enacted by the legislatures which were dominantly republican at the time.
New bills were being drafted and enacted, which would require voters to jump over “hurdles” in order to get their voter identification so that they could vote. Such hurdles include the need for government issue identification at the poll.
“Gutting the Voting Rights Act” of 1965 was deemed as moving retroactively, and it left minority voters unprotected, according to a member of the NAACP.
A local North Carolina reverend was highlighted during one of his sermons; he advised the congregation that racism has become about implementing prejudice into policy rather than just using racial slurs.
“Leveraging the Big Lie” referred to a tweet that President Trump posted after the 2016 election which claimed there were over three million cases over voter fraud.
The film took this as an opportunity to provide news clips of interview where those claiming voter fraud existed could not or would not provide evidence of such a claim.
“Voter Poll Purges” centered around a man who took it upon himself to challenge the right of more than 3,500 voters in North Carolina. The concept of challenging another citizen’s right to vote was written into law during the Jim Crow era and is still on the books today.
Rock Springs, Texas, was the example for play number six, “Voter Intimidation.”
A local sheriff of a town with a population of 1,100 charged a man with voter fraud and impersonation of his grandfather, whose name they shared. He was imprisoned for 18 months with no trial date, and finally pleaded guilty to voter fraud and was released for time served.
The man was not legally allowed to vote because he was on probation, but was told he could vote by poll officials. The voter roll listed his grandfather’s name and date of birth, but the man was allowed to pass.
The eighth play “Voter ID Déjà vu” was just as it reads – another highlight to the state legislatures imposing voter identification laws and the court battles involved.
The final play, “Change the Courts,” focused on President Trump’s appointment of 145 district courts – a record for a first-term presidency.
The film and the actors pointed out the significance of not only the control of the legislature by republicans, but also how the judicial system is moving toward the control of Trump and republicans.
Though the film provided perspectives of many – republicans, democrats, voters of all kinds, committee members, politicians, non-profit employees – the suggestion is that the vote is being suppressed and America’s democracy is moving backwards.
The work done during the Civil Rights era has been and is being reversed and must be re-worked, with respect to the right to vote.
“Rigged” spotlighted the “insidious nature” by which voter suppression exists, according to Stacy Abrams, founder of Fair Fight Action.