Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Remember, Remember the Elections of November

Earlier this evening I wrapped up at work and headed over to the polls at 5:40pm to cast my vote in New Jersey's District 54.

My polling site was in the library of a senior center just around the corner from where I live and work.

A cagey old WWII veteran sat between the two polling booths and kept a sharp eye on things as he guided voters into the booths and pressed the button once people had cast their votes.

He grumbled good-naturedly about having to be there for 16 hours. I asked him if he was getting overtime for being there so long and he said no, he wasn't.

The older ladies seated a few feet away at the check-in table were very polite and efficient. My name was listed in the voter rolls and I walked into the booth, checked off my candidates on the electronic key board and cast my vote in about 90 seconds; no ID required.

But just before I was called to the table to check in, an older man of color with what sounded like a deep Caribbean or possibly Spanish accent was confused because his name wasn't listed in the voter rolls - and he lives IN the same senior complex where the polling site was set up.

One of the ladies behind the table asked if he had entered a change of address form recently, when he said he hadn't she tried to assure him that it had happened earlier to another woman too.

It was a bit of an awkward moment.

The couple in line before me were African-American and there was a young college-aged white couple nearby too; all their names were in the voter rolls and they were able to cast their votes under the watchful eye of the cagey old WWII vet.

But the uncomfortable reality of the nation-wide campaign of voter suppression by the GOP kind of hung in the air; we all silencdtly wondered if we were witnessing that.

The woman behind the desk was very nice and told him he would need to fill out a provisional ballot at another table. She asked him if he needed some help and he said he did; so she got up and guided him over to a table a few feet away and sat down to help him fill out his provisional ballot.

NJ Senator Corey Booker won by a wide margin, but I'm still thinking about the older man with the accent who lived at the same address of the polling site but wasn't listed in the voter rolls. Will his provisional ballot be counted?

I wonder how many times that happened across the nation today.

It's 11:42pm and it appears Republicans will take control of the US Senate.

Even though the idea of the 'Party of No' controlling of both houses of Congress is personally repugnant to me, I'm trying to remember that today millions of Americans headed to the polls to celebrate the privilege of being able to exercise their constitutional right to vote.

At least those citizens whose voting rights haven't been suppressed by flagrantly illegal "Voter ID" laws enacted by Republican state legislatures.

The Supreme Court having gutted a key provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act last summer - enabling states like North Carolina, Texas and Georgia to intentionally make the voting process less accessible to racial minorities, students and elderly citizens - is certain to impact various races around the country, but there's not enough data to show to what extent.

The absurdity of North Carolina's arcane "Voter ID" laws are glaring. Laws that shorten the time to cast a vote by a week? Or won't accept valid student ID's from college students so they can vote? Or even local municipal government employees ID's as valid voter ID at the polls?

What's happened is the Roberts Court has acquiesced to the far right's open philandering of people's right to vote and embraced a "hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil" approach to judicial oversight of the nation's voting laws.

Even as the GOP begin their election night celebrations, voter rights groups are challenging the Interstate Crosscheck Program, a voter ID fraud database (created by Republicans) that may purge the names of some 27 million people from the voter rolls.

The IC program compiles names suspected of voter fraud based simply on first, last and middle names; as an Al-Jazeera investigation reports, the system ends up capturing the names of mostly black, Latino and Asian-Americans voters who often share common last names.

So what happens to someone in say Georgia, whose name gets placed on the Republican's voter purge list illegally? What happens to their vote?

Just as Republicans won a decisive majority in the House of Representatives back in the 2010 mid-term elections even though Democratic candidates won more numerical votes, the GOP may win the Senate.

But it's not a victory for the spirit of Democracy; it's a victory for Jim Crow.

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