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 It is one of the most outdated rules we have clung to over the decades and states that have taken steps to change the process are to be applauded.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.
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.