Voting Rights

Use Em or Lose Em


The problems with America’s elections system are profound and are becoming nearly unsolvable. Because the Constitution gives states the right to determine who can and cannot vote, voting is not a right, but a privilege. Each state has different criteria for allowing voters to participate and it is a profession in and of itself, determining who has the right to vote and where and how.

For overseas voters these problems have existed since the inception of the Republic. It wasn’t until 1974 that expatriate Americans gained the right to vote from abroad and it was nearly derailed by Anthony Scalia, then a member of President Ford’s Justice Department. Why didn’t Scalia want expatriates to be able to vote? Because of the potential for voter fraud, he claimed. It was only because of the intervention of Senator Barry Goldwater, who counseled President Ford against being the first president since Reconstruction to veto voting rights legislation.

For domestic voters, the problems began before the Revolution, but came into full bloom during Reconstruction, when several states passed laws barring newly freed slaves from voting, especially if they had been convicted of crimes. Many slaves were accused, convicted, and imprisoned just to meet this criteria and it still exists with the states that prevent former felons from voting. The largest majority of these people are African American.

In 2000, and again in 2004, each new day brought new stories about problems with either voting machines or Republican dirty tricks. Voting rights advocates were on the job in 2006, and the vote tampering abated somewhat, but not completely. The fact that the Republican-controlled legislature in Michigan has not wanted to help those facing foreclosure did not stopped them from vowing to use foreclosure lists to disenfranchise voters. (Just because your home is being foreclosed doesn’t mean you don’t still live there.) In Florida, the Republican governor implemented the “no match” law. All of your identification must match and must match your voter registration card. So, if you call yourself “Bob” on one piece of ID and “Robert” everywhere else, and all of the salient features, like social security number and date of birth match, you will be denied the right to vote. Sometimes these mistakes are made by elections staff keying data into the main database.

And then there are the cynics who tout the phrase, “If elections really changed anything, they would be illegal.” The fact is, electoral promises can’t always be met in full, and yet, 2008 saw a new wave of voter engagement in the electoral process. Change was in the air, and people who’d never voted, turned out to claim their right. Voting rights advocates organized like never before to poll watch, video the vote, report infractions and, generally, let the disenfranchisers know the people were on the case. And this, we think, is the single most important effort in making sure we keep the right to vote and to have our votes counted.

Read more

Brad Blog

Black Box Voting

Video the Vote

ACORN, voter registration activists

Democrats Abroad - official overseas country committees of the Democratic Party of the USA

Vote From Abroad - voting registration site maintained by Dems Abroad

Overseas Vote Foundation - non-partisan voting registration site

Vote Trust USA, round up of voting rights news


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