Column - Voter suppression damages democracyVoter-suppression attempts backfired – big-time. The heroes of Election 2012 were the people who stood patiently in long lines to exercise their right to vote. Many were old; some were handicapped; others were tired and hungry. But they stood there – many of them for as long as nine hours – to cast their ballots.
By: Dennis Dalman, Alexandria Echo Press
Voter-suppression attempts backfired – big-time.
The heroes of Election 2012 were the people who stood patiently in long lines to exercise their right to vote. Many were old; some were handicapped; others were tired and hungry. But they stood there – many of them for as long as nine hours – to cast their ballots. We all know what happened. Irony of ironies, this voter suppression – aimed against the president – helped elect him.
Many of the weary-footed voters told interviewers they would stand and wait, no matter how long, because they knew all about efforts to frustrate them from voting.
It’s no accident that so many of these determined voters were ethnic minorities, the elderly and students, or a combination thereof. The very groups that tend – in most places – to vote for Democrats.
Voter-suppression attempts are too numerous to mention. Some of them included shortening early voting times, purges of names on voter registration lists, unreasonable ID requirements, robocalls that informed people to be sure to vote – on November 7 (a day after the election), misleading billboards designed to instill confusion in voters.
There was an especially blatant effort in Florida to prevent the “Souls to Polls” event, during which African-Americans vote after church on Sundays. Is it an accident most of these tactics occurred in the nine or so battleground states? Of course not. Can there be any doubt these convoluted voting restrictions, complications and confusions were intentional attempts at voter suppression? Well, at least one man was honest: the Pennsylvania legislator who rapped his gavel right after a voting-restriction law was passed and then lauded his colleagues for just delivering the election to Mitt Romney.
All of these hoops, hurdles and knots were devised by officials whose feeble excuses included variations on “voting integrity” or “cost efficiency.” Fortunately, in many cases, thanks to fierce legal challenges, the courts struck down those despicable barriers to voting.
In addition to suppression, there were also glitches in some polling places, including break-downs of voting machines or not enough ballots available. Those glitches may have been inadvertent, but they were all avoidable and all inexcusable.
The television scenes of long voting lines ought to make us Americans outraged and proud at the same time. Outraged because the long waits should not have happened. Proud because so many fellow Americans were determined to cast their votes, no matter what obstacles were placed in their way. One could see a defiant, determined, patriotic pride on the faces of the people in those lines.
Many of the elderly black line-waiters no doubt remembered all too well the American South in the many decades before the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965. In those dark days, a systemic racist system used all forms of fear and intimidation to keep blacks from voting, including poll taxes, literacy tests and the unspeakably worse.
These recent tactics are a throw-back to those dark days, a vicious slap to the face of voters, not to mention an undermining of the very foundation of democracy – the right to vote. Such dirty tricks are abhorrent; they are dangerous; they are shameful; and they are un-American. And, not to forget, they occurred in 33 states, all of them Republican-controlled.
The good news is that so many people, including Republicans, have deplored these tactics and are now vowing to work on legislation to forbid them in the future. The main law should forbid partisan control over election processes at every level. We also need a comprehensive review followed by improvements to all voting procedures at all polls so that every eligible American can vote freely and conveniently, without barriers, hassles, fear or intimidation.
Let’s not let legislators forget. Democracy, which is based on trust in our voting system, is in jeopardy unless voting suppression is stopped, once and for all.
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Dennis Dalman, a former reporter for the Echo Press, is a regular contributing columnist to the Opinion page. He is currently the editor of the St. Joseph Newsleader. He can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.