Right to vote shall not be denied
“The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged … on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude … on account of sex … by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax… on account of age [18 years of age or older].” Amendments 15, 19, 24, 26
Voting is one of the most precious rights we have. After the Civil War, the country ratified the 14th and 15th amendments to ensure that newly freed slaves would have the same rights as every other citizen of the U.S. In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act to enforce what had been ignored by several states for nearly 100 years. In June 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court gutted key provisions of the Voting Rights Act, and several states immediately began passing laws to limit the right to vote.
Low voter turnout benefits Republicans, so many on the Right want to make voting tougher. Most on the Left believe voting should be simple for every eligible citizen. Some in support of voter ID say since we have to have ID to buy alcohol or drive, ID to vote shouldn’t be a problem. These comments demonstrate ignorance about the difference between voter registration fraud and voter fraud and what these laws are trying to do.
When someone registers to vote, they fill out a form which is sent to their county clerk’s office. The eligibility of the prospective voter is then verified. This verification process catches any phony registrations. Many Republicans believe voter ID is needed to prevent Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck from voting, but that’s a false assumption. Mickey won’t even get registered.
When a voter is registered, they sign the voter book. A first-time voter may show ID at this time, but after that, ID isn’t necessary, since signatures must match. If someone wants to vote in my place, they would have to practice forging my signature and then sign in as me. If anything looked off, the poll worker would ask for ID and the phony voter would be caught. In Churchill County, there has never been an incident of this type. Nationwide, out of 146 million registered voters, there were 10 cases of in-person voter fraud in 11 years, not the thousands claimed by Republicans. This is the only type of voter fraud picture ID would prevent.
Recently, under the excuse of preventing voter fraud, at least 22 Republican states instituted restrictions such as reducing early voting days and the number of polling places. Early voting is vital for working people who can’t afford to stand in line for hours on Election Day. Limiting early voting doesn’t reduce fraud; it just reduces the number of working people who vote. Why would Republicans want to do this?
In Churchill County, we have enough voting machines, early voting, and virtually no wait times. In contrast, in 2008, the South Carolina wait time averaged more than an hour. In Florida in 2012, the wait time ranged from 25 minutes to over an hour. In many poor areas, wait time was much longer.
In Pasquotank County, N.C., there were three polling places. To prevent college students from voting, the county eliminated two polling places and moved the remaining polling place to an area difficult to reach without a car. This would be as if the only polling place in Lyon County was in Yerington, so everyone had to drive there to vote. Limiting the number of polling places, done under the pretext of preventing voter fraud.
Two examples of the idiocy of these laws come from Texas. Sandra Watts, a judge in Nueces County, Texas, has been voting for 52 years. In Texas’s 2013 election, she was stopped at the polls because, according to the new law, her ID was invalid. Jim Wright, 90 years old, former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and a member of Congress from Fort Worth for 34 years, had to produce a copy of his birth certificate in order to vote. Anyone who thinks these new laws are not hindrances to voting isn’t paying attention.
A basic right every citizen has is the right to vote for those who will represent us. When Republicans cut early voting days and move polling places, there is no justification except the desire to suppress the vote. When you are voting in the next few weeks, ask yourself — why are Republicans so anxious to keep people from voting?
Jeanette Strong, whose column appears every other week, is a Nevada Press Association award-winning columnist. She may be reached at email@example.com.