I don't have much time right now, but I'd like to throw something out for consideration. There was an article in the New York Times today about how some Democrats are concerned that African-American voters may stay away from the polls, discouraged by past problems when trying to vote.
The article refers to many difficulties black voters have had to deal with:"This notion that elections are stolen and that elections are rigged is so common in the public sphere that we’re having to go out of our way to counter them this year,” said Donna Brazile, a Democratic strategist.
Long lines and shortages of poll workers in lower-income neighborhoods in the 2004 election and widespread reports of fliers with misinformation appearing in minority areas have also had a corrosive effect on confidence, experts say...
She [an African-American woman from Milwaukee] traced her own skepticism to one afternoon two months before the last presidential election when she overheard several young black men saying they were not going to vote because they feared being arrested at the polling station for their unpaid parking tickets. The neighborhood had been flooded with fliers from the Milwaukee Black Voters League, a fictitious group, saying that even minor infractions like parking tickets disqualified people from voting...
Mr. Walters said that episodes of voter suppression that were dismissed in 2000 as unfounded recurred in 2004 and were better documented because rights groups dispatched thousands of lawyers and poll watchers. In addition, the first national data-tracking tool, the Election Incident Reporting System, offered a national hot line that fed a database of what ended up to be 40,000 problems.
“All of a sudden after 2004, these weren’t just baseless or isolated incidents,” Mr. Walters said.
The type of misleading letter sent this month to 14,000 Hispanic immigrants in Orange County, Calif., threatening them with arrest if they tried to vote, was hardly a first. In 2004, similar fliers appeared in predominantly black neighborhoods in the Pittsburgh area, on official-looking letterheads. The fliers said that because of unusually high voter registration, Republicans were to vote on Election Day, and Democrats were to vote the next day.
Fliers sent in Lake County, Ohio, told people that if they had registered through the N.A.A.C.P., they could not vote.
What I always wonder when I hear these stories is whether and how seriously they are investigated and prosecuted. I understand there is a Justice Department investigation of the Republican candidate for congress whose campaign was responsible for the Orange County letters, but usually one hears of the complaints and not the investigations.
There are several things our country needs to do to make our system a true democracy. We need to address gerrymandering and campaign financing in a serious fashion. We also need to prosecute anyone who interferes with someone's right to vote and make them serve real jail time. Jim Crow should have died a long time ago.
Republicans are at the forefront of denying people -- mainly the poor and minorities -- their right to vote. Everything from requiring ID cards to rejecting voter registration cards because of the thickness of the paper they were printed on appears to be nothing more than an attempt to disenfranchise sectors of the population that, when the vote, vote Democratic. The standard conservative answer to these charges is that voter fraud is as big an issue as voter intimidation, and favors the Democrats. I have always believed this to be a red herring, but hey, I also agree on aggressive prosecution of voter fraud when it exists. Just don't use that as an excuse to keep people from voting.Some countries, such as Australia, require people to vote by law. If they don't vote, they have to pay a fine. I have always found this to be a bit on the coercive side of things, but I must say it's encouraging to see that in some countries the political class is not actively trying to discourage the carrying out of the democratic process. We could learn from their attitude.
I'm not being partisan here. When they get the chance, Democrats are as happy to use funky accounting with their campgain money and to absurdly gerrymander districts as Republicans are. But who stands to win from disenfranchising the least powerful members of our society?