A citizen’s right to vote is the single most important element of a true democracy. Any attempts to suppress it are both unpatriotic and undemocratic.
Alabama, as we know, was one of the states covered by the Voting Rights Act of 1967 and required federal approval of any actions taken regarding voting. Well, that changed with the Supreme Court decision in 2013 which seriously dismantled key provisions of the Voting Rights Act. The result of that ill-advised decision by the Supreme Court was to see several states take drastic measures to restrict voting. These actions include cutting back on early voting days and hours and passing laws making it harder to vote, but the most common of these actions was to restrict voting by enacting voter identification laws which severely impacted those citizens who may not own a car due to age or income and, therefore, would not have driver’s licenses.
Alabama demonstrated the epitome of an attempt at voter suppression. In 2011, Alabama made it illegal to vote without a valid I.D. More recently, it attempted to close 31 county motor vehicle offices across the state. That would have left 28 counties without anywhere in the county for residents to obtain a valid driver’s license. By some strange coincidence, every county in which African Americans represent 75 percent or more of the population would not have had a motor vehicle office. Voter suppression at its ugliest. Granted, public outrage resulted in keeping most of these offices open on a monthly basis to lessen the inconvenience, but the fact that there was an attempt in the first place is highly disturbing in a democratic society.
Voter I.D. laws serve absolutely no purpose other than to make it more difficult to vote. They do nothing to address the non-existent problem of voter I.D. fraud. At the time of initial voter registration, proof of identity is required and that information is then placed on the voter rolls. If an individual’s name is not found in the poll book at the time of voting, further proof of I.D. would then be required. It is noted that when the photo I.D., usually a driver’s license, was originally received by the individual, the I.D. used to secure it was most likely a birth certificate which does not even have a photo. It should also be noted that underage drinkers find it rather easy to obtain phony driver’s licenses and that election judges are not in a position to determine the validity of driver’s licenses.
Moreover, what could be accomplished if individuals did decide to pose as others, such as deceased voters, in order to sway the results of an election. To begin with, the individual would have to know the name, address, birth date and polling location of the deceased individual or individuals in order to appear in the polling book. The individual would also have to be of the same gender and of approximate age in order to pass as the deceased voter. However, to actually impact the results of an election would require a massive coordinated effort of thousands of individuals posing as others. The likelihood of such a massive effort being conducted without any leaks is highly unlikely if not downright impossible in the age of social media. More importantly, there have been absolutely no instances of any coordinated effort of voter fraud. To put it mildly, voter fraud is not a problem; suppression of voting is.
Alabama is one thing, but Maryland, or, more specifically, Montgomery County, Maryland? How could any thing that resembles voter suppression happen here? Maryland is one of the most progressive states in the nation and Montgomery County is its most populated and most progressive county. When it comes to voter suppression, however, apparently no location is safe, not even in Maryland.
Here, too, public outcry reversed a rather poor decision, but the fact that an attempt was even made leaves one bewildered. A Republican majority on the Montgomery County Board of Elections had voted to eliminate the early voting sites at the Marilyn J. Praisner Center in Burtonsville and the Jane E. Lawton Center in Bethesda. The Praisner Center accommodates the highest concentration of minority and low income voters. According to Congressman John Sarbanes, during the 2014 primary and general elections, the “Praisner Center voting location was second only to the Silver Spring Civic Center in voter turnout and accounted for more than 14 percent of the county’s total votes”.
The Jane E. Lawton Community Center is within walking distance of the Bethesda Metro station and is a convenient and highly accessible voting location by transit for the approximately 50,000 people who live and work in Bethesda.
The two replacement sites in Potomac and Brookeville are not as densely populated, do not have easy access to public transportation, do not have a large business presence that would facilitate voting by workers during the work day, and are not as culturally diverse. In other words, these locations do not accommodate as large a voter population as the locations they would have been replacing. So why the change? Could it be the make-up of the electorate?
The Board of Elections did, indeed, react to the public outcry and modified its decision. The nine sites in place for previous elections would again be used for the 2016 election. Just attempting to limit voting by removing early voting sites in densely populated areas and placing them in more sparsely populated areas, however, smells of placing party politics over the good of the people. That voter restriction can even be attempted in Maryland is what is truly shocking and disheartening.
Rather than eradicating non-existent voter fraud, maybe the focus should be on eradicating unfair campaign practices. Maybe that is where the real fraud regarding elections occurs. Ted Cruz’ campaign staffers sending out a quite formal looking document to potential Cruz voters in Iowa that, basically, served to shame them into attending the caucuses by identifying them as having failed to vote in previous elections did more to illegitimately influence an election than any voter fraud has or could. Cruz’ staff contacting potential followers of candidate Ben Carson by phone and advising them that Carson is dropping out of the race and that they should consider supporting Ted Cruz is an equally appalling attempt to unduly influence an election. These are just a couple of examples, but anyone who follows elections knows that such activity is rampant and has been occurring in elections for a very long time. Add in all of the lies and false promises during a campaign and you have much more undue influence on an election than can ever be achieved by non-existent voter fraud.