That great underpinning of any democracy the world over: one-man- one- vote, (now one person one vote) is under threat nationwide in many states where new voter ID laws and purges of voter rolls suppress voting by citizens of the United States and pervert democracy.
The right to vote is the greatest bulwark against tyranny and despotism. American citizens concerned about democracy and republican government should wake up or face the loss of their right to vote. Everyone is threatened, not just the elderly, people whose names sound like they are African-Americans or Latinos or likely members of the Democratic Party.
Florida has already purged over 180,000 voters from the rolls in that state with more to come. Texas has removed 300,000 since 2008. Both Florida and Texas State officials say voter purging has only begun. Other states are contemplating such action. In dozens of states, new voter ID laws adversely disproportionately affect the elderly, the poor and racial minorities.
21% of the people purged in Texas are constitutionally and lawfully entitled to vote. In one instance in Florida over 514 of 1650 voters on a purge list were found to be American citizens and residents of their voting districts and legally entitled to vote. In Texas, a form letter that people often throw out with the junk mail or that is sent to the wrong address tells people they can no longer vote—in some cases saying it is due to their death. Those people remain very much alive. In Florida, it is up to the citizen to prove they are a citizen and to recover their right to vote.
People who say that you need a photo ID to be admitted to certain places, to drive a car and to buy beer at the local liquor store or that voter fraud is rampant fail to grasp that these people have a difficult time getting to their state’s department of motor vehicles offices without a car or with fewer bus lines to those places. More affluent voters, more likely to be Republicans and conservatives, have less trouble. They are more likely to scoff at those who complain about Voter ID. Then there is the requirement to produce a valid birth certificate, American passport, and other documentation to prove you are a citizen of the United States.
In Wisconsin, people fail to understand that the State’s long tradition of same-day voting benefits more than just liberal Democrats.
Governors across the United States are working with their Secretaries of State to suppress voter turnout in coming elections. They want fewer people to vote. We must ask why? The reverse should be true.
We need all our citizens to vote in each election. That means providing them at state expense with documentation. If there is to be a voter ID, everybody gets one without cost to them and without their having to spend money to obtain what is already a basic human right. In many states with new voter ID laws or initiatives, those implementing them are not willing to spend the money needed.
People who favor these voter suppression efforts say voter fraud is rampant. But in the last presidential election, with 314 million votes cast the rate of fraud was o.ooo5 as a percentage. In Wisconsin, State Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen made a study of fraud in his state to find only 20 cases among over two million votes cast. In most of those cases, the fraud was voters making mistakes and unknowingly committing infractions of the State’s electoral laws.
Oddly, these voter ID and purging from the voter rolls of people who have every right to vote are happening entirely in States where the Republican Party is in power. This is not a barb thrown at political opponents but a bald fact.
Demographically, the strength of the Republican Party is older, more affluent, white, male and threatened by the nation’s growing racial, religious, and ethnic diversity. The Republican Party has decided not to appeal to these emerging constituencies. To maintain their stranglehold on power Republicans have decided to freeze out millions of people nationwide who have the right to vote. They want to discourage, rather than encourage people to go to the polls and be fully involved in the political process. Why?
That is the only way to hold back demographic trends that do not favor their party. Rather than changing the party platform to conform to the new reality and appeal to these people, they are now engaged in shrinking the electorate by either taking away the right to vote or to so discourage others from exercising their right to vote that they do not participate. Putting up barriers to voter registration, making American citizens prove what has been true all their lives and actually taking their legal right to vote away from them is NOT what this nation was founded upon. It is wrong; it is destructive of the very fabric of our democracy.
Instead we ought to be voting on Sundays. Most people are off work then. We ought to make sure at whatever expense every single eligible voter is identified and supported in their exercise of the elective franchise. We could even consider fining citizens who do not vote as they do in Australia where voter turnout is above ninety- percent. We can’t do better than sixty or seventy percent as it is. And that is only in presidential elections. The rest of the time voter turnout can be around forty percent or even ten percent in some primary contests. People should be able to register to vote anytime and as easily as is possible.
The right to vote is our most precious citizen right that ensures the survival of democracy and republican government. That is, we are a Republic where citizens hold the government they elect accountable by their exercise of that elective franchise. Without it, real democracy is not possible. Implementing voter ID laws and suppressing the ability of the elderly, the poor, and racial and ethnic minorities to participate by purging them from voter rolls and putting up new barriers to voting is thoroughly un-American. Struggles for Justice stands for the fullest citizen exercise of the right to vote and we defend vigorously the one-man-one-vote principle.