In Illinois, we have the option of early voting. I personally had a very smooth voting experience when I voted last week just a block from our Chicago office. I didn’t have to wait in a never-ending line of voters and the polling officials were both extremely helpful and well-informed. There were no hitches in casting my vote.
However, not all Americans have such an easy voting experience. For example, in Duval County, Florida, many early voters worry about whether their votes will really be counted. In the 2000 election, approximately 26,000 ballots were discarded in this predominantly Democratic area around Jacksonville. In that 2000 election, voting machine irregularities accounted for thousands of votes being discarded in predominantly black populated areas.
Then there are other states where voters have been stricken by the thousands from voting because of state rolls in supposed violation of federal law. Yet further review of the records of these stricken voters shows that they may be mistakenly denied from voting. According to the states in question these mass removals are their attempts to adhere to the Help America Vote Act of 2002 by removing the names of voters who should no longer be listed.
The majority of the questions regarding improper striking of voters centers around the key swing states of Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Nevada and Colorado. These states have been accused of an improper usage of voters’ Social Security information to verify their application status. They could be in further violation of federal law by removing voters from their rolls within the 90 days preceding the federal election. A voter may only be removed during that time frame if they have died, been declared unfit to vote, or informed authorities that they moved out of the state.
Many new voters have been added to states’ rolls in the last few months as part of an aggressive campaign to register new voters. Yet according to the New York Times, some states have removed at least two legitimate voters for every newly registered voter that has been added to their roll over the last two months. The result is that come November 4th, many registered voters may show up to vote only to be sent away or challenged by political party officials and workers.
Indiana has been criticized for their strict photo ID requirements, which were recently upheld by the Supreme Court (Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, No. 07-21). The dispute involves a 2005 Indiana state law passed to deter voter fraud despite little history of fraud in Indiana. The law requires that voters have an ID with their proper name, photo, and expiration date that is issued by Indiana or the U.S. government. Critics of the law maintain that this requirement is unconstitutional and deters elderly, poor, and minority voters from coming out to the polls.
On college campuses, where enthusiasm for the upcoming election is high, there is evidence that voter suppression is in the works. On one college campus a flyer was being distributed falsely stating that all attempts to vote by those with outstanding parking violations would be turned away. At another university a deceptive notice was circulated on campus declaring the election for Democrats would be held on November 5th, not November 4th.
In 2000 it was the voting machines that was labeled as the problem in the presidential election, whereas provisional ballots were the big issue of 2004, especially as it applied in the Ohio vote.
What’s most important is that all eligible voters cast their vote. Vote and count all of the votes. That’s the way democracy works.
If you or someone you know has experienced voting problems in the upcoming election, visit the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division’s website to find out how to report voting right violations.
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