Thursday, October 28, 2004

Voting Fraud and Vote Suppression

These are the last-stretch tactics of this democracy. The idea in simple terms is for the Republicans to accuse the Democrats of voting fraud, because of the large numbers of new Democratic voter registrations, and for Democrats to accuse of Republicans of voter suppression, because low turnout on election day always benefits the Republicans. This is how the so-called liberal media would present the situation. Note how nicely balanced the accusations are, how clear it is that both parties are being naughty here, how the statement tells us nothing about what should be done about these lamentable practices, if anything.

Well, I am not a part of the liberal media (at least yet, with enough money in my paw this could change in the wink of an eye), so I can go all biased and much more interesting.

The balanced landscape I painted above isn't like that at all. In reality, it's the Republicans who are guilty of most of the nastiness here. It's Republicans who have been hiring poll monitors in Ohio for the explicit purpose of challenging voters in predominantly black and Democratic districts. It's elderly Democratic voters who have been getting phone calls supposedly informing them that their polling place has changed. It's Democratic voter registration forms that have been dumped by a Republican "get-out-the-vote" firm, and Democratic absentee ballots that have been "collected" never to turn up at the other end. And it's largely Democrats that stay on the felon lists in Florida and thus unable to vote. Whether the recent disappeared absentee ballots in Broward County, Florida, a predominantly Democratic area, are part of this suppression effort or just an accident remains to be seen, but viewed as a totality these suppression efforts will certainly hurt Kerry votes more than Bush votes.

What about the Democrats, then? Are they all innocent as newly fallen snow? No, I doubt that very much. But it would be hard to see how they could make up enough nonexistent voters to really affect these elections. Take this example from Wisconsin, where the Republicans went through the voter rolls of Milwaukee and found 5,600 city addresses that may not exist. The voters with these addresses will now be examined and possibly challenged, for, after all, how could someone be a legitimate voter if the address given is a gyro stand or a park or a space between two houses?

But note that these voter rolls don't only have newly registered voters in them, but all voters, a total of more than 300,000 people, and some people from the gyro stand or the park have voted in the previous elections. Thus, the Republicans are not fighting some recent Democratic fraud here, but are just trying to cut back on voter numbers. Besides, according to the U.S. Post office, around one percent of all postal addresses turn out to be false, and the numbers here are not that much higher. In other words, what the Republicans unearthed is not evidence of some recent voter fraud but of the fact that the voter rolls are not perfectly maintained.

The really nasty aspect of voter suppression is that it works largely on minority voters for the simple reason that minorities vote predominantly Democratic. If a Republican operative wants to make voter suppression really efficient, he or she would direct it towards minority areas. And that's what we saw in Florida four years ago, and are possibly seeing there and elsewhere again.

This is turned upside-down in an opinion piece in the National Review Online: where I see racism in voter suppression the writer of the piece sees race-baiting in the "laundry list of recycled rumors and outlandish assertions about "phony cops" being sent to polling places to discourage black voters...",and where I see cynical manipulation of the voting rights of minorities by the Republicans, she sees a Democratic campaign which tries to disunite Americans along the lines of race.

This would be a good point to stop, as I have returned a full circle to the neutral and unbiased way these stories are usually told. But I don't want to do that, because facts in this case are not neutral. It's the Republicans who are behind most of these shenanigans, and that needs to be made clear.