(North Miami, FL on Election Day. Photo credit: Eric Jotkoff.)
In Florida, Republican Governor Rick Scott cut early voting days from 12 to 8. He also produced a ridiculously long and complex ballot that, by many accounts, takes as long as 12 minutes to fill out. The result of this restricting access to polling places and complex ballot combined has been enormously long lines in Florida, requiring voters to wait as many as 8 hours to exercise their democratic and human rights. The fact that the longest lines are forming in heavily Hispanic and minority areas illustrates exactly which groups Scott has targeted for suppression.
In Pennsylvania, a restrictive new voter ID law was passed by a Republican legislature. Mike Turzai, the Republican House Majority Leader, famously said of the new restrictions: “Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done.” These voter ID laws target students, minorities, and the elderly, since these groups tend to lack the credentials required to acquire the new identifications needed to cast a ballot. The result is suppressed turnout among these groups. However, courts have also suspended the Pennsylvania law after strong blow-back.
In Ohio, Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted fought to restrict early voting and to force through his own restrictive voter ID laws. But his efforts were blunted by courts who rolled back many of the new restrictions. Now Husted is ginning up new ways to manipulate Ohio’s vote by creating rules and technicalities that allow him to toss out provisional ballots or deny people registration. New rules put in place by Husted, just this weekend, make it possible that tens of thousands of Ohio voters may be disenfranchised.
And in Colorado, Republican Secretary of State Ed Gillespie, has tossed out thousands of voter registrations by misinforming voters of registration requirements and times, through computer ‘glitches’ that have resulted in thousands dumped from voter rolls, and through direct challenges to voters in an effort to remove their right to vote.
In total, Republicans have enacted restrictive voter ID laws in 30 states.
Combined, these restrictive actions reveal a nation-wide effort on the part of Republicans to suppress the vote. They utilize bureaucratic red tape, cheap tricks, and authoritarian use of government to restrict access to polls and dump voters who oppose their political views. This active usurping of democracy couldn’t be more cynical and heinous. More moderate and honorable republicans have been horrified by the efforts of their, less scrupulous, peers. Former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman called the voter suppression led by Rick Scott ‘inexcusable’ and compared it to similar efforts in ‘third world countries.’ (See more on Whitman’s outrage at Rick Scott here.)
Given this massive effort by Republicans to disenfranchise voters, it is absolutely imperative that people do not become cynical. It makes it even more important for people to endure the long lines, the hardship, and to challenge efforts to suppress their vote at every opportunity. These actions could include standing in long lines to vote, directly challenging election officials who are attempting to remove your registration or invalidate your ballot, reporting these attempts to media, and filing civil liberties violations with the ACLU and other legal bodies to seek restitution for abuses against you. In addition, here is a number to directly contact the US Department of Justice should you witness any voting irregularities or illegal activity: 1-800-253-3931.
All that said, Jon Husted, Ed Gillespie, and Governor Rick Scott should all be tried for their illegal and immoral efforts to violate the civil liberties of American citizens, to undermine democracy, and to erode the public authority defined by the Voting Rights Act. Such wanton voter suppression should not be coddled and we risk moral hazard if we do not pursue all legal means to hold accountable those who have willfully and maliciously attempted to use government as an implement for limiting the democratic voice of the American people.