Sunday, August 26, 2012

A Short History of Voting, Undone



In 1787, the US Constitution established the right to elect representatives through voting.  White male property owners could vote.

In 1870, the 15th Amendment to the Constitution guaranteed the right to vote to former slaves and others born in or naturalized in the US.

In 1920, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution expanded voting rights to include women over the age of 21.

Also in 1920, the League of Women Voters was founded and has worked for the past 92 years on voter registration drives to increase participation in our elections.

In 1965, the Voting Rights Act ensured that a citizen's right to vote could not be hampered by tricks such as the poll tax or knowledge tests.

In 1971, voting rights were further expanded to include 18-20 year olds, many of whom were being drafted to fight wars waged by those elected.

In the 1990s, most states made voting easier for the infirm, soldiers, travelers and others by making absentee ballots available.

In 1993, the National Voter Registration Act was passed to make participation more accessible nationwide, including at departments of motor vehicles.

In 1998, Oregon made vote-by-mail universal to ensure maximum ease and participation.  Washington soon did the same.

In 2000, thousands of Floridians were disenfranchised when the state's governor (brother of the Republican presidential candidate) and secretary of state (head of that candidate's Florida campaign) refused to have their votes recounted.  Several years later, it was determined that Gore actually would have won the state (and therefore the election) by a slim majority of 40-170 votes.

In 2004, Ohio's secretary of state (head of Mr. Bush's Ohio campaign) refused to provide sufficient voting machines to the most heavily populated -- and most Democratic -- parts of the state.  Voters stood in long lines for hours waiting to vote and many abandoned the effort.  For a full accounting of Ohio voter suppression in 2004 see Wikipedia.

In 2012, the state of Florida launched a massive purge of voter rolls just before the primary election.  The Miami Herald reported in May:
So far, Florida has flagged 2,700 potential noncitizen voters and sent the list to county elections supervisors, who have found the data and methodology to be flawed and problematic. The list of potential noncitizen voters – many of whom have turned out to be lawful citizens and voters – disproportionately hits minorities, especially Hispanics.
About 58 percent of those flagged as potential noncitizens are Hispanics, Florida’s largest ethnic immigrant population, a Miami Herald analysis found. Hispanics make up 13 percent of the overall 11.3 million active registered voters.
Independent voters and Democrats are the most likely to face being purged from the rolls. Republicans and non-Hispanic whites are the least likely.
Also in 2012, the state of Ohio chose to restrict early voting in some counties and allow it in others.  The Republican secretary of state got to choose which counties and the practice was overturned in court.  However, early voting on the days African-American voter turnout was highest would be eliminated statewide.  And late voting -- the possibility to still vote if your precinct was short-changed and you'd been waiting in line until poll closing -- was cancelled.

Also in 2010-2012, the 33 states of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin passed laws requiring voter ID to cast ballots.  The objective was to limit in person voter fraud at the polls. In an exhaustive study of every state's fraud records, only ten cases nationwide were found of in person voter fraud.  Yet new laws in these states will impact about 100 million voters, particularly those without current photo ID such as elderly citizens no longer able to drive.

With 225 years of history behind us, most of it focused on expanding access to the ballot box and encouraging voting among sometimes reluctant citizens, there is something dangerous and unAmerican about the current rush to restrict voting rights.

Many others have reported on the motives behind these almost exclusively Republican attempts to begin restricting voting rights, particularly of Hispanics, Blacks, city dwellers, the elderly and others more likely to vote against their candidates.

Since 2000, the much-lauded American election system has begun to smell.  This year may well be the pivotal year when we decide if democracy and citizen participation are something we of all political stripes support, or whether gaining and wielding power is more important than preserving our precious rights.  Forget who wins the election; if suppressing the vote is the vehicle, we're all doomed.



Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/05/31/2826708/feds-demand-florida-cease-its.html#storylink=cpy

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