Thursday, April 12, 2007

Disenfranchising The Vote

It is a shame that 42 years after the landmark Voting Rights act, we still have those who want to prevent minorities, the poor, and mostly first time voters from having their voices heard. After years of complaining of wide spread voter fraud on the part of Democrats and aggressive prosecutions of individuals, the truth is that this is a red herring. A smoke screen used by some Republicans to marginalize these voters and institute various forms of poll taxes and other types of voter impediments.

The truth be told there are no wide spread conspiracies to corrupt our electoral process. Were it not for the vigorous prosecutions of individuals (the majority of whom were black, poor, and democratic) there would have been no prosecutions at all. Until now, no individuals who accidentally violated voter laws have ever been prosecuted. Think about it, we are spending millions of dollars to prosecute poor individuals casting one vote due to either misunderstanding or misinformation provided to them by those who are supposed to understand the laws. By prosecuting individuals in this manner we are sending a message to those communities that if you vote; you could be sent to jail, deported, or tied up in legal action. This is significant because it strikes fear into communities that normally are afraid to exercise their voting rights anyway. By making examples of those brave enough and concerned enough to exercise their right you are in effect saying voters beware and in turn suppressing that community’s voice. Can you imagine what those first time voters must be thinking after being arrested for voting? Make no mistake, news like that travels fast in those communities sending a chill through any would be voters in the future. Further reinforcing the mindset, “This is why I don’t vote” throughout the whole community.

Instead of setting up barriers to participating in our democracy, we should be working on ways to include more of our citizens in this process. With less than 50% of all registered voters even showing up to vote, it is incumbent to a healthy democracy to get as many people voting as possible. Why for instance was it important to get as many Iraqi’s to vote as possible and not important to get as many Americans to vote? The reason it is important to get a high voter turnout is because it allows everyone to feel that they have a say in what goes on in the democracy and prevents a select few from deciding for the many. It also removes the opportunity of fringe elements to recruit from the disenfranchised. We, as Americans must resist any attempt to limit our voting rights. It may be this group today and you tomorrow. A wise man once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Let’s not allow anyone to roll back the hard won gains of the past with misinformation, division, and scare tactics. Let’s say no to those who want to limit participation in our democracy and reach out to extend that democracy to all those who are willing to join us.

It amazes me that the same administration that praised the participation of foreigners in democracy around the globe is working so hard to limit that participation at home. Are we not good enough to enjoy the fruits of democracy? Shame on those who want to limit the access to our democracy based on fear, division, and race.

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