I should resist the temptation to use a couple of anecdotes to “prove” that Western Civilization is completely and irrevocably declining.
But maybe the fact that a couple of people are openly advocating what previously people tried to hide may say something about the decline of one of our traditional values.
When I was a kid, it was fashionable to tell people voting was their right and responsibility. We’d brag that voting was what separated from communist countries and signaled to the world we are a free country.
But a couple of weeks ago, someone on these cyberpages expressed the hope that I don’t vote.
Then, in a column published June 28 in this paper, Jonah Goldberg wrote, “If anything, voting should be harder, not easier. Scarcity creates value….Personally, I wouldn’t mind tying eligibility to vote to passing the same citizenship test we require of immigrants. We might get fewer voters, but the voters would be far more likely to appreciate the solemnity of their ballots.”
The politicians are not so overt. They also want to make voting harder, but they excuse their behavior by claiming they want to stop voting fraud.
Now, I wondered with all the frauds going around today, how likely would it be that someone would go to the trouble of creating a fraud just to vote. Last I looked we didn’t get paid for voting.
So I googled cases of voter fraud conviction. I didn’t find any. A couple of years ago, Democracy Now reported the number of deliberate voter frauds in the United States was in the single digits—throughout the country.
Sometimes things get so bad even the mainstream media have to notice. An Associated Press report published in our newspaper last Monday pointed out the obvious: Lots of previously qualified voters will be unable to vote this time because they don’t have photo IDs. “The numbers suggest that the legitimate voters rejected by the laws are fare more numerous than are the cases of fraud that advocates of the rules say they are trying to prevent….Election administrators and academics who monitor the issue said in-person fraud is rare because someone would have to impersonate a registered voter and risk arrest.”
Mary Sanchez’ July 14 column in our local newspaper quoted from “The Truth About Voter Fraud” from the Brennan Center for Justice, which found 250 citations of election problems. “It then analyzed whether Indiana’s new voter law would have prevented any of (the) problems. It found no evidence that it would have prevented any….In July, an official for the Texas secretary of state’s office testified that he knew of four cases of voter fraud. When pressed, he admitted that clerical error was the likely culprit.”
Yet, a number of states in this election year have passed voter ID laws that make it harder for people to vote. I don’t know about other states, but an Alaska photo ID costs $15. That’s chump change for corporate execs but a hardship for people living in their cars after losing their jobs.
Then there’s 93-year-old former civil rights activist Viviette Applewhite, who’s voted in every election since 1960, according to the July/August AARP Bulletin. Someone stole her purse with her social security card and birth certificate a while back. So the state of Pennsylvania won’t let her get a photo ID. So she’s suing the state, one of 30 with voter ID requirements. After getting a new birth certificate, she still has to go to the local social security office in her wheelchair to get a new card. A representative of the Philadelphia office of the ACLU of Pennsylvania comments, “This law disproportionately affects the elderly who no longer drive and have mobility problems.”
These new laws remind Bernie, who goes to my church, of the poll taxes of his native Misssissippi. The Jim Crow laws a half century ago overtly targeted black people. More recently, politicians have indirectly targeted minorities in “battleground states” such as Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004 according to reporter Greg Palast and New York University professor Mark Crispin Miller.
Palast’s book, “The Best Democracy Money Can Buy,” charges Florida election officials suppressed voting in predominantly black precincts. The state paid a company called Choice Point $4 million dollars to provide a list of 8000 voters “scrubbed’ from Florida voter rolls, none of whom were convicted felons. Palast reports the company admits the “mistake,” but blamed the state of Texas for providing a false list. Palast estimates the state illegally denied the right to vote to over 50,000 Floridians in an election in which George W. Bush officially “won” by a little over 500 votes.
Miller, author of “Loser Take All: Election Fraud and the Subversion of Democracy,” cites a report by Richard Hayes Phillips that audited 180 Ohio counties and found 200,000 votes taken from John Kerry in 2004. Thousands of ballots were reportedly pre-marked so that when people marked their ballots for Kerry, they’d be invalidated. Miller says in 11 states hundreds of voters reported instances of “vote-flipping.” One voter is quoted as saying, “I pushed the button for Kerry and the button for Bush lit up.” (Democracy Now, Oct. 22, 2008) The head of the Diebold voting machine company has been quoted as guaranteeing Bush would win Ohio in 2004. Coincidence?
Miller also reports ballot shortages in a precinct where Kenyon College students lived and in predominantly black precincts where potential voters stood for hours in the rain in vain attempts to vote.
A friend tells me his Pennsylvania relatives report people were being told that because of heavy voting in the 2008 presidential elections that Republicans would vote Tuesday and Democrats Wednesday.
I’m reminded of last year’s Anchorage ordinance banning people from lying on downtown Anchorage sidewalks. One guy had been lying there for months without creating problems for anyone and the municipality had no instances of injuries created by people lying on downtown sidewalks, but the mayor decided the practice was dangerous.
I guess the lesson here is that in election years politicians will enact laws against problems that have never or almost never existed on the premise that they might exist sometime in the future while trying to convince us that none of their laws are self-serving.
There’s widespread fraud in voting all right. But it’s not from individual Americans. It’s from politicians who try to win elections in the worst way—by either rigging election machines, creating ballot shortages or by making it harder for the poor, the elderly and the people in historically Democratic precincts to vote.
Of course, the politicians and their disciples who indulge in such crude politically partisan dirty tricks will accuse critics of playing politics and the race card. The usual suspects will label my sources "leftist," apparently on the premise we should look at facts not whether they're true or false but whether they advance the suspects' political agenda. Guess what? I trust independent reporters, researchers and voters more than politicians. I am likely to continue doing so until someone convinces me that they are more likely to indulge in partisan politics than partisan politicians themselves.
To put it simply, the right of individual citizens to vote is more important to me than the "right" to concoct ways of suppressing votes.