Voter suppression is a disgrace to our democracy


While I am encouraged that the media has covered this quite a lot this election cycle (well, except for Fox of course because they are not really news)….I am way more enraged that there is anything TO talk about.

First of all there were attempts to require ID to vote across many states. This seems innocuous until you think about the many reasons why people might NOT have a currently valid photo ID – such as my older son who doesn’t have a driver’s license and whose state photo ID card expired recently – even though he has been legally registered to vote since he was 18 and has voted every election, he would be turned away this year if we lived in a voter ID required state. There are a LOT of examples for varying reasons of folks who don’t have photo ID and would not have had the time to get one by tomorrow.

In most cases the voter ID laws were struck down by higher courts because their primary impact is to disenfranchise citizens.

Since the confirmed cases of actual voter fraud are less than 1/10 of a percent nationally this seems like complete overkill. More people would LOSE their ability to vote in just this one election than any proven fraudulent totals over the last four Presidential elections.

So it’s good that those laws were challenged and watered down or delayed or struck down entirely.

But wait – that is not the only effort to suppress the vote that has been going on.

In the last few weeks there have been huge problems with early voting. Some of the most critical swing states – Ohio and Florida – made efforts over the last decade to ease up long lines on election day and opened polling places for in person voting for up to 24 days at a time. Allowing for multiple weekend voting and spreading out the crowds. Makes sense right? Voting in person ONLY on the 1st Tuesday in November is ludicrous in 2012. It is one of the most outdated rules we have clung to over the decades and states that have taken steps to change the process are to be applauded. Voting by mail (as Oregon does) and allowing permanent absentee status without conditions (as many states such as CA do) expands the potential participation rates in elections.

Growing up I always heard people lament how low turnout would be and it seems only logical that expanding the days/times/methods of voting is one of the best ways to increase that.

Unfortunately, Ohio and Florida this cycle have taken steps to roll BACK early voting access. In Florida the number of early voting days were reduced, then subsequently added back at the lat minute in certain precincts when lawsuits were filed. And yet people stood in ridiculously long lines – up to 8 hours! to cast their ballot.

In Ohio steps were taken to make the actual ballot used more confusing for early voters thereby increasing the chances that a voter would end up having to vote “provisionally” which then increases the changes that those ballots wont be counted at all. So you stand in the long lines and think you have voted only there is a good chance it wont be counted.

I have YET to hear a logical reason why ANY of these efforts is needed. None. Anyone looking at this would see only one reason why you it would happen like this – those state officials are TRYING to suppress voter turnout and invalidate the ballots of as many voters as possible.

WHY?

Let me digress for a second to pull from a blog post by Steve Benen on the MaddowBlog:

This should not be easy.

This affects every voter, regardless of party or ideology, but because Republicans benefit more from lower turnout and higher disenfranchisement, this is a purely partisan scheme to rig an election in the GOP’s favor.

OK, you’re thinking, early voting in Florida has been disgraceful, but at least voting on Election Day itself will be smoother, right? Wrong — due to Republican budget cuts, there will be fewer polling precincts this year than four years ago, meaning more long lines.

I’ll just conclude with Rachel’s conclusion: “[I]t is frankly an outrage that there are forces at work in our politics right now that not only make this type of situation possible, but that make it inevitable — who see problems like this and go out of their way to try to make it worse…. If you are one of those people being forced to stand in those long lines tonight or tomorrow or on Election Day, honestly, your country needs you to do it. Your country needs you to do it, not only because it’s your civic responsibility, but also because there are people trying to profit politically off of you not doing it.”

 

And then a quote from Rachel Maddow directly “I did not grow up with the expectation that casting a ballot was supposed to be an endurance sport.”

Voting is a right, not a privilege. There is NOT rampant voting fraud that needs to be fixed.  Voting should be EASY, ACCESSIBLE and COUNTED consistently every single time.

Oh…well, there is this one minor detail we should consider here that was alluded to in the quotes.

ALL the states creating these problems? Voter ID laws, early voting cutbacks, provisional ballot rules – ALL have Republican Governors and Secretaries of State.

Because if you cannot convince citizens to vote for you based on your POLICIES, then the next best step is to just stop the people you don’t like from casting their ballot at all.

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5 comments

  1. I agree with everything you’ve said here except the voter ID requirement. No one bats an eyelash at having to show an ID to rent a video at Blockbuster (okay yeah, that’s a dated reference), so there’s no reason why anyone should have to throw a tantrum about showing ID to conduct official state business. How on Earth does 27 get through the day without having some valid form of identification? Heck, I have to show ID every time I go to the doctor or go get blood drawn (which has been every week lately, but that’s another show). Rather than doing away with the voter ID laws, progressives would be better off concentrating on the fact that to *get* a valid photo ID is a logistical nightmare, and focus on fixing that.

    As for early voting/vote-by-mail and all that, the other day at work I was trying to convince one of my non-voting coworkers to actually go vote, and he actually asked me if Tuesday was the only day we could go vote. It was embarrassing to say “Erm…well, yeah. Other states have figured out how stupid that is and a lot of states offer early voting or vote-by-mail, but in Michigan our calendars still read November 1975.”

    1. Well…27 has no medical insurance..and no full time job….so……the times when he needs to show ID are greatly reduced and most of the time – since the state ID card JUST expired (he’s renewing it this week) – no one has noticed.

      But see – that was the worst part of those ID laws – they were NOT making accommodations for folks who needed to get valid ID in time for the election this year. Which was on purpose of course as they figured the folks disenfranchised would be voting Dem anyway.

      1. There are 4 years between presidential elections… That is PLENTY of time to renew or get a state ID/license. That’s just laziness… Voter ID is not an inconvenience for the VAST majority…

  2. Anonymous (how brave!) – no one is talking about requirements for the 2016 election (which could be worked out, I agree) – these were laws being applied THIS year. Do some research on Pennsylvania specifically to see why the law was disallowed – the documentation required to get the voter ID and the specificity of the ID card were so narrow that MANY people couldn’t get one in time (if at all). Jim Kramer from CNBC famously tweeted that his dad was one of those pushed off the voter rolls due to the ID requirement and the state wasn’t processing his dad’s request fast enough. He got an exception granted because he is a public figure, but what of other citizens without prominent connections? If IF is required it should be fast and easy to obtain – not riddled with more hurdles for people to jump through.

  3. Unless they can prove why ID, and such a specific type at that, should be required, they should not be allowed to require it. Why isn’t student ID or military ID acceptable in some places?
    Blockbuster may be an outdated reference but we still use a brick and mortar DVD rental place here at times. Last year, they started requiring ID. It did NOT go over well. This is a low income area meaning a lot of people here have no need of a state ID. If you have no bank account and no driver’s license, there’s no real reason to pay for a state ID. They dropped the requirement and went back to using your phone number.
    If we’ve voted for this long without official IDs, why change that now? It serves only as a roadblock.
    Make it a Saturday, make it a national holiday, make it a “free Metro ride to your polling place” day. Every person and every level of government should be working to INCREASE voter turnout. My friend waited five hours in line with her one yr old to vote the day before the election. She can’t afford to miss work so couldn’t go on Tuesday. Our POS SOS Husted first tried to extend early voting in Rep districts while cutting it in Dem districts. It went to the state SC who of course said, “early voting for all!” He got pissed and tried to cut it across the board and the SC refused the case. So he got petty and cut the hours so that it ended at 2pm instead of 7pm.
    That has nothing to do with voter fraud or personal responsibility. It’s ALL about suppression of the votes of a specific demographic.

    Excuse me if I get a little fired up about this one. lol

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