Thursday, March 24, 2016

Why is It So Hard to Vote in America? Voter Suppression is Desperation Politics

By Steven Singer, Director BATs Research/Blogging Committee
Originally published on his blog -


No one should have to stand in line an entire work day to vote.

But that’s what happened to people in yesterday’s Arizona primary election.

Lines stretched literally for miles. People actually ordered pizza to be delivered to them IN LINE!

Citizens were already getting in line when polls opened at 6 am, and hundreds were still in line when polls closed at 7 pm. The last ballot wasn’t cast until midnight – a new record for the Grand Canyon State!

What the fuck!

The most populous county in the state, Maricopa County, reduced polling locationsfrom 200 during the last election to just 60 this year. That amounts to over 20,000 voters for every location.

The reason? They were trying to save money.

Let that sink in. When you run government like a business, services suffer. It meansfewer resources for your schools. More lead in your water. And long as fuck lines to vote.

Oh. And if your skin happens to be black or brown, you get it even worse.

Hispanics and Latinos make up more than 40% of the population of Phoenix (30% state wide). Yet in these densely populated neighborhoods, there were few to no polling places open. I can’t imagine why!

And to top it all off, this “oversight” was used for political gain.

At roughly 8:30 pm, a little over an hour after polls closed, with less than one percent of precincts reporting, the Associated Press declared Hillary Clinton the winner of the Arizona primary.

In Democratic primaries delegates are awarded proportionally. It’s not winner take all. Delegates are awarded by the percent of the vote each candidate receives. If the race is really close delegates are split.

Prematurely declaring Hillary the winner while hundreds are still waiting to vote discourages Bernie Sanders supporters from staying in line and, thus, can reduce the number of delegates he receives.

These are not the actions of a robust Democracy. These are the actions of a de factooligarchy trying desperately to crush any last remnants of majority rule.

In an age when you can buy anything you want on-line, why do we have to wait on line to vote? If the Internet is safe enough for global commerce and government, why is it too risky for casting a ballot?

It isn’t. The only reason this hasn’t happening is because it would dramaticallyincrease voter turnout. It makes things too easy. While pundits decry “slacktivists” on Facebook and massive political participation on Twitter, they actively discourage bringing Democracy to those same forums.

It’s the same reason why election day isn’t a holiday. If people didn’t have to sneak voting in before or after work or during their lunch break, too many of us would be heard.

During every election cycle, there is an outcry against shady practices like what happened in Arizona, but we never do anything about them after the election cycle. We look at our antiquated primary and caucus system (especially on the Democratic side) and wonder how a modern country can actually function this way. We shake our heads at the Electoral College and maybe make some noise about changing it until the next President is sworn in. Then we all go silent.

Meanwhile, voter suppression efforts gain ground every year – even when the White House isn’t changing hands.

Despite low turnout and nearly non-existent cases of voter fraud, state legislatures are making it increasingly more difficult to vote.

A total of 36 states now have draconian Voter ID laws on the books – 33 of them are being enforced this cycle. During the 2015 legislative session, at least 113 bills that would restrict access to registration and voting were introduced or carried over in 33 states, according to the Brennan Center for Justice.

I know. I was part of the successful effort that defeated one of the most severe Voter ID laws in the country in my home state of Pennsylvania. State Rep. Mike Turzai proudly bragged in 2012 that our law would give the state to a Republican president. After protests and petitions from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh and everywhere in between, the state Supreme Court struck it down.

Meanwhile, other states are trying to enact the same kinds of laws that were ruled unconstitutional in the Keystone State. Wisconsin’s Voter ID law is almost identical to the defunct Pennsylvania legislation. Instead of being defeated, Republican lawmakers are trying to restrict the kinds of permissible identification and prohibit country and town governments from issuing any IDs to residents for free.

And last year, a year after enacting a voter ID law, Alabama shuttered 31 driver’s license offices — most of them in rural, impoverished, majority-black counties. Civil rights groups have filed suit, arguing that the change disproportionately affects racial minorities.

All across the country, early voting hours are being cut. Same day registration is being discontinued. Mountains of paperwork are being required to ensure proof of citizenship. And mysteriously people who have had no problems voting for decades are finding themselves given provisional ballots because of bookkeeping errors.

This has to stop.

Either we live in a country governed by majority rule or not.

Corporations and billionaires set national policy. If we want any chance in taking back our country, we must continue to have the right to vote.

Voting should be protected. It should be free and easy. It should be every citizens right.

Fight for it, America. Fight like your life depends on it.

Your freedoms certainly do.

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