Apparently I’ve been living under a rock. A couple of weeks ago I expressed surprise at the anticipated Civil Rights violations related to the upcoming election, and sent a call out to get some other perspectives. Thanks to everyone who responded.
Despite the Voting Rights Act of 1965 which protects the right to vote, “Americans do not have a single uniform set of rules for voting, or even 50 separate state election systems. There are 4,600 different election systems.” (Spencer Overton, author of Stealing Democracy and Profession of Law at George Washington University.) This is obvious just by looking at registration deadlines. In Chicago, you only have until October 7 to register for this year’s Presidential election. Just 5 hours away in St. Louis, the deadline is October 8, but in Massachusetts, the deadline is October 24. In Minnesota and Idaho you can register at the polls on Election Day.
And that’s just the rules governing voting. Then there’s the physical equipment. Over 1.3 million voters did not cast ballots in 2000 because of registration problems. The subsequent Help America Vote Act of 2002 presumes to fix this by mandating electronic voting, but extensive problems with vendors and technical malfunctions have actually disenfranchised more voters, and proposed ID matching regulations add to the problem, particularly for lower income individuals and seniors.
Now I know, and to know and not act implies complicity. So, here are 10 easy things that I am going to do, and I hope that you will join me. Will doing these help? I don’t know. Will not doing them help? No. Here they are:
1. Confirm You Are Registered, or Register to Vote.
Call 866-MYVOTE1 (in English and Spanish), visit the League of Women Voters, Rock the Vote, (geared to young people), or check out your own party’s site. Obama’s makes it easy to do on-line (a Google search did not yield a comparable Republican Party ‘one-stop-shop’ site, although you can type in your City Name followed by voter registration, e.g. “Chicago Voter Registration,” etc. and that should provide contact info for your local election commission.)
2. Be a Poll Watcher.
Democrats can sign up with the National Lawyers Council, or contact your local party headquarters.
3. Follow Election Fraud News.
Check out Voters Unite, a non-partisan national grassroots resource for fair and accurate elections that includes a call to action, daily national news summary, and more.
4. Contact Your Congressman/woman.
Let your elected officials know you do not support electronic voting. Ellen Theisen, founder of votersunite.org in her interview with Lou Dobbs says “The abundance of practical problems with electronic voting is not the fundamental violation of our democracy. The fundamental violation is that when computers are used to record and count votes, ordinary people cannot observe the process.”
5. Find Your Polling Location and VOTE.
Schedule the time now-put it in your appointment book, in your blackberry, on the back of your hand…wherever you keep important reminders. Between work, family responsibilities and unavoidable obligations, voting will not happen by accident. Allow ample time in case there’s a line.
6. Bring Your Child to Vote with You.
Explain how hard people have fought around the world for the right to vote. My 7 year-old has been voting with me since he was 5. I’m confident he will be an adult voter. (64% of those eligible to vote voted in the 2004 election, but only 47% of eligible voters ages 18 to 24 voted-that’s less than half.)
7. Bring Someone Else to Vote with You.
No children? Bring your parents or your grandparents or your neighbor or your co-worker or your friend or an acquaintance who you suspect needs a ride.
8. Exercise Your Personal Power.
Remember the butterfly that flapped its wings in China and caused a tornado in California? You have the power to influence those around you simply by being, so…
9. Tell Everyone What You Are Doing.
I’ve never met Carmen from All About Race in person, but she told me I inspired her to be a poll watcher when I contacted her on the subject a couple of weeks ago, and she in turn got me to sign-up. That’s two more than were signed up two weeks ago.
10. Back to Intercultural Communications.
If someone says “I’m not voting because my vote doesn’t count,” don’t assume that he or she is just jaded or making excuses to get out of voting. Listen-they may have a very valid concern. Go with them to the Election Commissioner to find out, or offer to go with them to the polls on election day. Anyone being prevented from voting is an affront to us all.
Election Day is Tuesday November 4. See you there, and bring a friend!