By DAWN GOOGE
As we brace ourselves for yet another presidential election, hundreds of thousands of voters will enter into their respective polling locations only to find that they are either no longer eligible or lack the proper identification to vote. For this alarming violation of democratic values we can thank the watchful eye of the GOP.
As usual Republicans have taken an insignificant “issue,” spun it into a nationwide emergency to use this “crisis” to their advantage, in this case stripping citizens of their right to vote. Showing yet again their hypocrisy and lack of transparency, Republicans are pushing for more bureaucratic red tape and regulation not for big business, or faceless corporations, but on you, the citizens who put them into office.
The fuel for their fire is a common delusion that fraudulent voters are a major concern that warrants top priority while they use this as an opportunity to levy the elections in their favor.
Here’s an outline of just how Republicans are manipulating the system to tip the scales to their advantage. Within the realm of voter registration, new laws in states such as Florida require any group registering new voters to hand in registration forms within 48 hours of receiving them, as well as comply with a bevy of bureaucratic requirements or face a fine of $1,000, and possible felony charges, according to Ari Berman of the “Rolling Stone.”
The major problem concerning this law in particular is that it discourages groups like Rock the Vote and The League of Women Voters from registering new voters out of fear of bureaucratic crack-downs and felony charges.
Sadly, the Florida chapter of The League of Women Voters lost the battle and was forced to halt all registration efforts due to the changes. With organizations of good faith like The League of Women Voters, whose purpose is to clean up politics and get as many of the public out there using their voice, unable to bridge the gap between disconnected politicians and the public they represent. What does that mean for our democracy?
Republicans have also targeted voting conveniences, like early voting. Early voting has in the past resulted in an exponentially higher voter turnout in the days approaching an election. If suspicion alone isn’t enough to be skeptical of the GOP’s motives, a study done by The Early Voting Information Center at Reed College declared, “There’s no evidence that any form of convenience voting has led to higher levels of fraud.”
The findings of EVIC was too little too late, considering Florida cut convenience voting days from 14 to eight days before an election while Ohio went from 35 to 11 days with limited weekend hours. The cutting didn’t stop there; both Florida and Ohio banned voting on the Sundays before elections, which was typically when African American churches would mobilize their congregations to get out and be heard.
Perhaps the most alarming changes made between the last election and the one approaching is concerning photo identifications. Five states (Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin) have passed laws requiring a new government-issued photo in order to maintain voter eligibility.
South Carolina has taken the cake in unconstitutionality by requiring that the 178,000 people who do not have the specific identification necessary to vote, purchase either a birth certificate or a passport in order to obtain the free state identification. in an act that is appallingly reminiscent of the poll tax.
Under the new voting law in South Carolina, many elderly African American residents born in their homes in the segregated South must now go to family court to prove their identity, and to obtain a birth certificate, both a lengthy and expensive process that could cause residents of South Carolina to illegally secure a birth certificate in order to legally cast their vote.
It seems that Republicans all across America are trying to outdo themselves because after only a thirty-minute debate, Florida Governor Rick Scott disenfranchised 97,491 ex-felons and prohibited 1.1 million prisoners from being eligible to vote after serving their time.
In times when having a voice in government couldn’t be more critical, Bill Clinton asks the appropriate question in response to Florida’s disenfranchisement of ex-felons convicted of non-violent crimes, “Why should we disenfranchise people forever once they’ve paid their price? Because most of them in Florida were African-Americans and Hispanics and would tend to vote for Democrats – that’s why.”