Democratic differences, part two — don\'t look at the man behind the curtain

The reason I mentioned the question of the ease/difficulty of voting in the previous post is that right now, in the United States, people who are worried about the outcome of the next election should be paying less attention to the polls and debates and more attention to the many laws and regulations recently (or soon to be) enacted that will make it more difficult for some people to vote.

Since the 2010 elections brought Republicans to power in numerous swing states, officials in many of those states have made it harder for minority, poor and young voters to cast their ballots. GOP governments have been curtailing early voting (in Ohio and Florida) and requiring voters to produce official photo-identification cards (in Wisconsin). In South Carolina, the poll tax lives again: Voters who want an official photo-ID card must present a passport or a birth certificate, neither of which can be obtained for free. The Washington Post \”The GOP is trying to rig the electoral college\”

All told, a dozen states have approved new obstacles to voting. Kansas and Alabama now require would-be voters to provide proof of citizenship before registering. Florida and Texas made it harder for groups like the League of Women Voters to register new voters. Maine repealed Election Day voter registration, which had been on the books since 1973. Five states – Florida, Georgia, Ohio, Tennessee and West Virginia – cut short their early voting periods. Florida and Iowa barred all ex-felons from the polls, disenfranchising thousands of previously eligible voters. And six states controlled by Republican governors and legislatures – Alabama, Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin – will require voters to produce a government-issued ID before casting ballots. More than 10 percent of U.S. citizens lack such identification, and the numbers are even higher among constituencies that traditionally lean Democratic – including 18 percent of young voters and 25 percent of African-Americans.[Rolling Stone \”The GOP War on Voting\”]

There are many ways in which to win an election by suppressing portions of the vote without sending thugs out onto the streets to intimidate the population. You can have some polling stations in hard to find locations with inadequate parking and bad lighting. You can make it harder to vote without types of identification that some portions of the population are less likely to have that others. You can make it hard to vote without types of identification that carry a non-trivial cost for portions of the voting population. You suppress the vote by having \”voter lists\” purges that use dodgy criteria that impact some groups in society more than others. You can suppress part of the vote by having polling stations that are difficult to reach using only public transit and having the hours they operate inadequate for those who cannot get (paid) time off for the long trek by bus and subway from their place of work to their polling place.

If I can sit here and think of dozens of perfectly \”legal\” ways of suppressing portions of the vote then I guarantee you that there are political operatives right now who have thought of even more ways of doing so.

One of the first things one needs to do to protect democracy is to make sure that no one finds it easier, safer or cheaper to vote than anyone else.


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