Thursday, September 11, 2008

Hands off my ballot

Earlier this summer, Alternet reported that McCain would be scaling back voter suppression efforts that have been used in previous elections. Via Wonkette, I came across this piece in the Michigan Messenger.

The chairman of the Republican Party in Macomb County Michigan, a key swing county in a key swing state, is planning to use a list of foreclosed homes to block people from voting in the upcoming election as part of the state GOP’s effort to challenge some voters on Election Day.
This really pisses me off and I think it should piss you off as well.

Check this quote from The Right to Vote page on USInfo.State.Gov from the U.S. Department of State,

Without free and fair elections, there can be no democratic society, and without that constant accountability of government officials to the electorate, there can, in fact, be no assurance of any other rights. The right to vote, therefore, is not only an important individual liberty; it is also a foundation stone of free government.

Who shall have that right has been a persistent question in American history. A theme that runs throughout the American past is the gradual expansion of the franchise, from a ballot limited to white, male property-owners to a universal franchise for nearly everyone over the age of 18. A related theme is ensuring the full equivalency of each vote, insofar as that is possible within a federal system. But because Americans often take this right for granted, it has not always been exercised as fully as it should be. With nearly 200 million citizens eligible to vote, too many people think their individual ballot will not count. The closeness of the presidential election of 2000 has served as a reminder that every vote does count, however.

[emphasis mine]

News flash for the government: People don't think that their vote won't be counted because we have too many citizens and they've taken the right to vote for granted, they think their vote won't be counted because (1) the U.S. has a long history of limiting voting rights to classes that are already in power (white, landowning men, anyone?---read further on that Right to Vote page for more history), (2) because every year there seem to be more and more efforts to prevent people from voting successfully (please check out this page detailing some different state's requirements for voter ID laws and also the piece I previously wrote about Indiana's voter ID laws), (3) it is really difficult to trust electronic voting machines because of all the controversy around 'em, and (4) a significant portion of the population feel as though officials that they have elected ignore them once they get into office (ie, my vote might be literally counted, but does it count?).

Personally, I'm going to be stopping by my local Obama office this afternoon to ask them if they're providing literature to voters about their voting rights in Virginia. (FYI, according to The National Conference of State Legislatures [linked above, but please please check out this page], VA voters who do not have a VA voter registration card, social security card, VA driver's license, other ID issued by the VA/U.S. govt, or an employee ID card with photo, can still vote, they just have to sign a statement that says they are who they say they are. I don't want anyone telling a Virginian that they can't vote because they don't have ID.)

Supported by the GOP as necessary to protect against voter fraud, these laws have the effect of making it more difficult to vote. Under the Indiana law, for example, a voter without a photo ID either has to come back on Monday after the election with one or "execute an affidavit stating that the voter cannot obtain proof of identification, because the voter: (i) is indigent; or (ii) has a religious objection to being photographed." Even if a voter without a photo ID on November 4th is able to get one by November 10th or they fit the narrow exceptions, their vote will only be counted, if "the voter has not been challenged or required to vote a provisional ballot for any other reason."

From the Michigan Messenger piece, it's clear that the GOP is not going to stop at voter ID laws in its effort to restrict the right to vote of U.S. citizens in this year's presidential election. Imagine that you've lost your home this year. Imagine hearing that if you show up to vote, your vote might get challenged by the GOP based on the fact that you've lost your home (btw, as someone points out in the article, many people are still living in homes that have been foreclosed and therefore are still living where they registered and would be voting legally). I know what I would be thinking, "What if they challenge me publicly and tell everyone my home has been foreclosed on? That would be incredibly embarrassing [ED: I don't think there is anything shameful about not having the money to pay your mortgage, inflated or otherwise, but I can see feeling that way.]" That might prevent me from even trying to vote. And if I did go to vote, what happens to votes that get challenged? Do they only get counted if the district is really really close? (Does anyone know the answer to this?)

Possible Actions:

Ask John McCain to denounce this practice in Michigan.

Get in touch with Obama's Michigan campaign and make sure they know what's happening.

Help someone else in our state register to vote and fulfill our states voter ID requirements (and make sure local campaign offices are paying attention to voter ID requirements).

Keep writing in our own spaces about voter suppression tactics so people are aware of what's happening.

Fill out Progress Michigan's petition against this tactic.

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