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Steps to counter voter suppression

By Bill Fletcher, Jr.
NNPA

Hopefully by now you have heard a thing or two about efforts on the part of the Republicans to suppress the votes of minorities, youth, the elderly, union members and many veterans. The plot is fairly simple: Make it especially difficult to vote by setting up all sorts of systems of identification in the name of avoiding alleged voter fraud. The fact that voter fraud has not been a major issue in the United States in recent memory is irrelevant for the Republicans since their principal objective is to decrease the potential turnout on the part of voters likely to go with Democratic candidates.

In the last year, with the increased attention on voter suppression efforts, there have been counter-efforts undertaken to minimize this threat. Various organizations have worked to ensure that voters have the proper identification. Many courageous individuals and groups have also challenged these anti-democratic laws in courts and, in many cases, won.

On Election Day, however, there are a variety of challenges for which we must prepare. Among other things we have to make sure that the voting machines correctly tabulate the vote. This will be helped by good poll watchers who can get a sense of the mood of the voters. If there are apparent irregularities, we need to be ready to yell “foul” immediately.

Another ominous challenge is that of right-wing outfits that are assembling volunteers who are going to be sent to challenge voters who they believe to be engaged in alleged fraudulent behavior. It is not clear how they will approach doing this, but we must be clear that their objective is the intimidation of voters. For this reason, defensive measures will need to be taken.

One measure is to make sure civil liberties, civil rights and labor union organizations have volunteers at the polls to make sure that there is fairness. Should voters have questions or if there is an attempt to intimidate anyone, liberal and progressive volunteers need to be ready to intervene to ensure that everyone has a chance to cast their ballot.

An organized presence is critical, a point that needs double underlining. The right-wing has whipped itself up into a frenzy repeating over and over that the Democrats (and most especially President Obama) plan to steal the election. The irony is that demonstrable efforts at disenfranchising have not come from the Democrats, but from the Republicans, including the infamous 2000 election; the 2004 mysteries in Ohio; and the post-2008 efforts by Republican state legislators across the country to pass legislation that makes it more and more difficult for citizens to vote.

There are those who seek to make the notion of democracy the equivalent of a movie set with all of the trappings and none of the substance. Our resistance to such shenanigans will again be tested this Nov. 6.

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a senior scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum, and the author of “They’re Bankrupting Us” and “Twenty Other Myths about Unions.” He can be reached at papaq54@hotmail.com

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