Our Right to Vote

Whether it be the war on women, the war on the arts and humanities, the war of social security and medicare, or the war on voting, the GOP stands in opposition to everything I value.

The ongoing attempts to disenfranchise voters is just the latest in a series of GOP threats to Democracy. Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, and Virginia are the states we’re hearing most about, and they are certainly the states Republicans have targeted for this election. But voter suppression measures have been introduced and/or passed in South Dakota, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, West Virginia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Kansas, and Rhode Island. If they can’t buy or steal the election, they’re going to make sure the minority vote, youth vote and poor vote are going to be compromised wherever they can stop it. They do this by creating arbitrary and unevenly enforced laws to create confusion and require specific types of ids.

While some might say voter id laws are good because they ensure “illegals” and criminals can’t vote (as if those folks would be knocking down the precincts to get their votes recorded), the problem is that these laws can prevent legitimate voters from casting their ballot.

I know this first hand. When I moved to the desert, I registered to vote within days of settling in. When my voter information arrived, I discovered they’d misspelled my name; my card read Kathleen and not Katherine. I filled out a new application, and that one came back the same: Kathleen and not Katherine. I went through this every year for 10 years, but it wasn’t something I pursued with the county clerk because I could still vote because no one was matching my voter registration with my driver’s license or other id.

Then they passed a voter id law here, and my trouble began. Because my voter registration (Kathleen)  didn’t match any of my other ids (all in the name of Katherine, of course, since that’s who I have been since I was born), I was told I could not vote. After an hour of heated discussion, the precinct manager agreed to allow me to fill out a provisional ballot. I did, but I left so angry I could spit. I had been voting since I turned 18, in this state for 10 years and in several others before. I am a US citizen with no criminal record and proper id, but because the County recorder could not spell my first name correctly, I was denied the right to cast my ballot.

The next day I stormed into the County Recorder’s office demanding someone address the problem. I was greeted by a nice woman who was sure the mistake was mine. Then she looked up my record. On August 19, 1998 I had filled out a voter registration application, and there, as clear as glass was MY name printed and signed. The woman was chagrined,  especially as she sorted through my records and saw I had tried, each year for the previous 8, to indicate my correct name. The nice woman called her supervisor, and they both looked through my records; indeed I had been trying to correct their error for 8 years.

With profuse apologies, the supervisor corrected my record, printed a new voter id for me, and said she’d never seen anything like this before.

My guess is, she had. Probably more times than any of us imagine.

Now, had I not been determined to cast my ballot, able to drive to the County recorder’s office, had the time to do so, and had the confidence to confront the system, I might never had voted again.

As my experience makes clear, voter id laws can result in fewer ballots being cast and fewer votes being counted. And that’s the plan: stop anyone who might vote for a democrat.

The GOP ought to be ashamed, but they’re not; people ought to be outraged, but they’re not; elections ought to be fair, but they’re not. We think we live in a democracy; we may not for much longer if these laws are not overthrown.

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