Saturday, May 21, 2011

Wisconsin and Florida Fire Up the 2012 Voter Suppression Machine

Wisconsin and Florida GOP Fire Up the 2012 Voter Suppression Machine

In America in the modern era it is considered a right of all American citizens to have a voice in electing their representatives, and it is one of the hallmarks of democracy. Any citizen who is at least 18 years old and not a convicted felon (in most states) is legally allowed to vote in the state they reside. When the country was founded, voting was restricted to white males who were land owners over the age of 21, and the notion of expanding that right was opposed by some of the Founding Fathers. Since the election of Barack Obama, Republicans are attempting to return to the prohibitive voting practices the Founders supported, and in Florida and Wisconsin, Republican lawmakers are making it difficult for the people predisposed to vote for Democrats to cast ballots with new voter suppression bills. The sad truth is that fraud is being perpetrated by Republicans in Florida and Wisconsin in the past week by passing legislation that makes it difficult to vote in an effort to tilt elections in favor of Republicans.

In the early days of the United States, the country was not a democratic nation and the notion of democracy had pejorative implications with images of mob rule, disorder, and government by the unfit. John Adams, the second president of the United States, wrote that nothing good would come from enfranchising more Americans in the voting process. Adams wrote that, “It is dangerous to open so fruitful a source of controversy and altercation as would be opened by attempting to alter the qualifications of voters; there will be no end to it. Women will demand the vote, and every man who has not a farthing, will demand an equal voice with any other, in all acts of state. It tends to confound and destroy all distinctions, and prostrate all ranks to one common level.”

Adams statement contradicts the image of “one man, one vote” that Americans have come to expect and gives insight into the equal rights Americans have come to regard as inherent to America since its founding. It took a Constitutional Amendment for women to earn the right to vote in 1920 with passage of the 19th Amendment, and another 45 years for African Americans to earn the right to vote, although the 15th Amendment technically guaranteed Blacks the right to vote. However, discrimination and voter suppression tactics like the poll tax and literacy tests made it nearly impossible for African Americans to vote in many areas of the country. Sixty-six years later and Republican majorities in state legislatures have returned America to a time when only white Republicans are considered worthy of casting votes to decide the direction of the country.

In Florida, House Bill 1355 restricts voters from exercising their right to vote by making it difficult for college students and relocating professionals to vote by disallowing Election Day change of address and early voting. More disturbing and ultimately undemocratic is forcing third-party groups that host voter registration drives to take an oath, provide personal information, and agree to be financially liable for any potential problems with erroneous ballots. The bill also cuts early voting from 14 to 8 days and makes provisional voting nearly impossible. The Republican legislature and Governor Rick Scott are doing everything possible to prevent voting; not voter fraud. In the past, Florida has had serious issues with voters having to wait in long lines, and huge turnouts for early voting proved to be convenient and effective in allowing all who cared to the right to cast ballots. Republicans have taken the right to vote away from a large segment of the population in order to assure that only Republicans are allowed to have a voice in government.


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