Protecting our Right to VotePosted: November 4, 2012
One of the watershed issues of this century is something that we should’ve settled in the 20th century with the civil rights movement and the suffragette movement. The right to vote and access to voting is the single most important action we have in our country that is protected and guaranteed by our constitution. As we have enfranchised more people and as our demographics change, the move to block voting rights and to suppress voters has taken on a new urgency. Republican extremists know that the future isn’t bright for them so they are trying to stop and delay that day when they can only impact the lives of very few people. Those of us that live under extremist Republican state governments know what kind of damage these people can do. The primary damage is to suppress individual rights and transfer public assets and dollars to religious factions, extremely rich donors, and narrow business interests.
I’ve written on the subject a lot recently. It’s also extensively covered on MSBNC shows like those of Melissa Harris-Perry and the Rev. Al Sharpton. The importance of protecting our right to vote is becoming more and more evident as we draw closer to what has been an extremely divisive election between the angry, hostile, greedy right and every one else. NYT has an editorial today that is worth reading.
This year, voting is more than just the core responsibility of citizenship; it is an act of defiance against malicious political forces determined to reduce access to democracy. Millions of ballots on Tuesday — along with those already turned in — will be cast despite the best efforts of Republican officials around the country to prevent them from playing a role in the 2012 election.
Even now, many Republicans are assembling teams to intimidate votersat polling places, to demand photo ID where none is required, and to cast doubt on voting machines or counting systems whose results do not go their way. The good news is that the assault on voting will not affect the election nearly as much as some had hoped. Courts have either rejected or postponed many of the worst laws. Predictions that up to five million people might be disenfranchised turned out to be unfounded.
But a great deal of damage has already been done, and the clearest example is that on Sunday in Florida, people will not be allowed to vote early. Four years ago, on the Sunday before Election Day, tens of thousands of Floridians cast their ballots, many of them black churchgoers who traveled directly from services to their polling places. Because most of them voted for Barack Obama, helping him win the state, Republicans eliminated early voting on that day. No legitimate reason was given; the action was entirely partisan in nature.
Yes. This week your vote and your ability to tolerate the long lines and distractions put up by Republican extremist is an act of rights and of support of Civil Rights. We have a new story today about voter suppression from the key state of Ohio and its evil Secretary of State. Yes, this late in the game, Husted has take one more action to suppress voter turn out which favors Democrats.
Once again Husted is playing the voter suppression card, this time at the eleventh hour, in a controversial new directive concerning provisional ballots. In an order to election officials on Friday night, Husted shifted the burden of correctly filling out a provisional ballot from the poll worker to the voter, specifically pertaining to the recording of a voter’s form of ID, which was previously the poll worker’s responsibility. Any provisional ballot with incorrect information will not be counted, Husted maintains. This seemingly innocuous change has the potential to impact the counting of thousands of votes in Ohio and could swing the election in this closely contested battleground.
This comes at a time when we are getting news like this out of the ever troublesome southern states. Yet another Florida early voting site has had issues with bombs.
Early voting was extended on Sunday at a central Florida polling site that was disrupted a day earlier by a bomb scare, and the Florida Democratic Party filed a lawsuit seeking extended early voting at other areas plagued by long lines.
Saturday was the last day for early voting in Florida, where polls showed Democratic President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney running neck-and-neck.
But Orange County Elections Supervisor Bill Cowles reopened the polls at one site, a library in the Orlando suburb of Winter Park, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.
The library was evacuated and voting there was suspended for four hours on Saturday because suspicious items were found on the grounds. A bomb squad safely detonated both – a cooler containing small electronics and what investigators described as a bag of miscellaneous garbage.
Florida, where 537 votes decided the 2000 presidential election in George W. Bush’s favor, is again a hotly contested state crucial to both presidential candidates.
The Florida Republican Party is appealing a judge’s ruling that allowed the voting to reopen on Sunday, so ballots cast at the library on Sunday will be held as provisional ballots in case the order is overturned.
This comes on top of these stories coming out of North Carolina. HuffPo’s Dan Froomkin has outlined some pretty vicious things occurring in some early voting places.
If Election Day goes anything like the past 17 days of early voting in North Carolina, here’s what you can expect at your local precincts on Tuesday:
- Belligerent citizens demanding the right to personally inspect the voting process and yelling “shut up” at the top of their lungs when election officials tell them that only official poll observers can do that.
- Official poll observers who have been improperly trained by the groups they represent and think it’s their job to interrogate voters rather than just watch.
- Long lines, which means that a lot of people end up waiting outside the designated no-electioneering zones, getting harangued by campaign workers.
- Shouting matches between Republican and Democratic campaign workers — and sometimes voters standing in line — that can involve name-calling, threatening gestures, and the summoning of law enforcement.
- A guy driving a tractor-trailer bed filled with effigies of Democratic officials, including President Barack Obama, with nooses around their neck. (Federal officials are looking into that one, which took place at an early voting center in Eastern North Carolina on Thursday.)
The fact that all these incidents have occurred at a few, tightly supervised early voting centers is giving state officials reason to worry that things could be much worse when regular polling stations open for business.
“I am hoping that people will have a return of good manners and civility by Tuesday,” said Johnnie McLean, deputy director of the North Carolina election board. Then she quickly acknowledged it’s not likely.
If these kinds of stories remind you of something the Taliban or religious zealots would do in nascent democracies in third world countries it’s because there’s a similar mentality in the Teahadists of this country. These same people that condemn the kinds of voter suppression and harassment in other countries are creating the same environment in our own country. Also, Republican leaders are encouraging this, funding this, and creating an army of zealots that are being sent to disrupt elections after Republican Secretaries of State of done everything to disenfranchise voters, reduce access to voting in key districts, and provided false information on voting rules.
Less than one week out from Election Day, we are witnessing a war of attrition, a game of inches. With state polls this close, every vote counts. And so beyond the positive effort to outdo the other party’s ground game and early-voting pushes, there is a negative corollary: voter suppression, confusion, and intimidation.
The ugly efforts to discourage the “wrong” voters from showing up reflect the asymmetrical polarization in Congress: neither party is entirely innocent, but conservatives have appeared to be driving the great bulk of efforts to suppress or misinform voters.
Yesterday, documents posted by Scott Keyes at TPM showed that the Romney campaign in Wisconsin is training poll-watchers to lie at polling stations by registering as “concerned citizens” rather than campaign volunteers; to untruthfully tell voters they are ineligible to vote unless they show proof of residency; and to misleadingly warn voters they are ineligible if they have been convicted of treason or bribery.
It is all intentionally dishonest, and particularly so because so much of the RNC leadership—including Chairman Reince Priebus—has roots in Wisconsin local leadership.
Those of you that live in key swing states–if you haven’t already voted–should be prepared to demand that your vote count and be counted. You should also be prepared for a long stint in line. You may need to bring something to help you while away the hours in a very long line. More information on voter suppression efforts and help if you experience problems voting can be found here at the ACLU.
The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State…
… on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude…”
… on account of sex.”
… by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax.”
… on account of age.”