Thursday, October 30, 2008

shame, shame

Last night before going to sleep, I was talking on the phone to a friend about the Presidential campaign, and at one point we were talking about where we have voted in previous years, what time of the day we usually vote, and maybe some other little personal Election Day traditions-of-sorts. We also talked about how easy it's always been for us to vote: how we've never encountered long lines, have never been hassled, etc. (We both have almost always been registered to vote in predominantly white, middle class, or upper-middle class areas. For example, for most of the years that I have lived in my home state of Pennsylvania, I have kept my legal, "permanent" address as my parents' address, mostly for reasons of convenience, because I used to move a lot. An added benefit of this, as I saw it, was that I could vote in the more conservative, suburban, swing-district of my childhood, rather than inside the city where I've usually lived and which never needed my liberal vote.) Then this morning when I fed my cats and brushed my teeth and just generally tried to wake up, I watched some of the film, Uncounted: The New Math of American Elections, on television. I learned some frightening things and pondered some others:

Florida, 2000
Along with all of the other questionable election practices that occurred there, including the use in some districts of the confusing "butterfly"ballots, the many old, dirty, clogged, and broken machines (mostly in areas of many African-American voters, who tend to vote -- at approximately 90% -- for Democrats) that resulted in the famous "dimpled," "hanging," and "pregnant" chad, and the Supreme Court ruling to discontinue the recount there, a lesser known injustice occurred when about 20,000 legal voters were purged from the rolls because their names resembled the names of convicted felons, who in Florida do not have the right to vote. This decision to expand the list of purged voters to include voters with names similar to ex-felons was made by Katherine Harris, the Republican Secretary of State for Florida, and a leading member of that state's Campaign to Elect George W. Bush, at the time. About half of these 20,000 (non-felon) citizens denied their right to vote were black. (source 1)

New Hampshire, 2002
Allen Raymond, former GOP operative who was arrested for campaign "dirty tricks," recently explained: "What happened was I was contracted by the Republican National Committee to jam Democratic phone lines. So, there's only one thing that goes on, on election day, and that's getting out the vote. And, so those phone lines on election day were used to call people to remind them to vote, where to vote, incoming phone calls telling them where to vote, could they get a ride to the polls, that type of thing. And my job back then was to stop those phone lines from being able to make calls going out or coming in. And it was very effective for the bit of time that we did it." – In his new book, Mr. Raymond writes that these practices were implemented in other places, in other years, and some were sometimes widespread. (source 2)

Ohio, 2004
"People waiting in line nine hours to vote, some getting discouraged and actually going home without exercising their franchise."
- Tim Russert, NBC. 10:59 pm, Election night, 2004. (source 3)

"People waiting as long as fifteen hours, in line, because they only had two places [working voting machines] to vote
-Tom Brokaw, NBC. 11:38 pm, Election night, 2004. (source 3)

Tactics observed, testified to, and otherwise evidenced in Ohio in 2004: Voter intimidation, voters purged from the rolls, barriers to registering, poll observers banned from polls, voting machine failures, too few voting machines, redrawn precincts, pre-punched ballots, ex-felons (who are allowed to vote in Ohio) threatened, fake flyers with false information about when and where to vote, phone calls with similar misleading information, illegal recount procedures, Kerry votes "flipped" to votes for Bush, long lines.
That year, Ohio's top election administrator was also co-chair of the state's Re-Elect Bush Campaign. Bush won Ohio, without which he would not have won the election.
(source 3)

Sources: 1.) Recount, HBO Films, 2008
2.) Real Time with Bill Maher, 10/24/08
3.) UNCOUNTED: The New Math of American Elections

To find out ways that you can protect your right to vote, help protect others' right to vote, or document anything questionable you witness, GO HERE and/or HERE.To read a few tips from Tim Robbins, GO HERE. To find out where to vote, GO HERE.



dabroots said...

It's helped that most legal challenges to voter registration by Republicans in recent weeks have been denied, always with good reasons. Even so, I'm fully expecting to hear horror stories similar to those from past presidential election years.

Sara Kearns said...

"dabroots," thanks for commenting. what a sigh of relieif that it wasn't as horrific as many reasonably feared. phwew. thanks to, like you said, many lawyers and judges and poll watchers. cheers!