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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 11/13/18

The Best Way to Get Voters to Vote

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From Common Dreams

America loves a party. Why not institute Saturday celebrations for mandated electors at American polling places?

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The voter turnout last Tuesday was historic -- the highest in half a century, nearly half of the eligible electorate participated, an amazing number for a midterm.

The United States Election Project estimates turnout at 49.2 percent. How high would it have risen without voter suppression -- 55 percent, 60 percent?

Who might have won without the strangulation of some voters' voices? Would Democrat Stacey Abrams have trounced Georgia Republican Brian Kemp, who acted both as candidate for governor and militant for suppression?

Like all disenfranchisers, Kemp did everything he could to choose his voters, making sure to disqualify electors likely to support his opponent's effort to become the state's first African American woman governor. That's right. He targeted Black voters.

Kemp and his vote-stifling cohorts are upending the goal of a representative democracy. In a democratic republic, voters choose their representatives -- not the other way around. Republicans are defiling America's promise of self-governance by erecting obstacles to the ballot. To be great, America must clear the path to the polls, perhaps even mandating voting like Australia. There, turnout is more than 90 percent.

The founding fathers created a country on the premise of self-governance, that each American was a citizen endowed with the right to self-determination. Those revolutionaries fought a war over their declaration that Americans were not subjects bound by whims of a monarch. Still, it took nearly another century and another war for Black Americans to gain freedom from enslavement. Even then, African American men only nominally gained the right to vote. And American women wouldn't get the franchise for another half a century.

It's a history sullied by a dominant group denying self-determination to minorities -- African Americans, women, Asians, Native Americans. A person without the right to vote is subjugated to those who have it. Those who restrict the franchise reign over those to whom they've denied the right.

Before the civil rights legislation of the 1960s, disenfranchisement was accomplished with poll taxes, voter registration tests imposed on Black citizens only, intimidation and violence. With those means outlawed, vote-silencers now use stealth measures.

Republican legislatures have, for example, required very stringent voter ID -- the kinds of ID less likely to be held by African Americans and Hispanics, the elderly and the young -- that is, citizens more likely to vote for Democrats. Texas, for example, allows a gun permit for voter ID, but not a student identification card.

In Georgia, Kemp, while running for governor, refused to relinquish his Secretary of State role as supervisor of elections. That enabled him to place a hold on 53,000 voter registrations under the spurious claim that the signatures on them did not exactly match, down to a dropped hyphen or middle initial, the names on other government documents. Not surprisingly, 70 percent of those 53,000 suspended registrations belonged to Black Georgians, citizens who seemed more likely to choose Kemp's opponent.

In October, a federal judge ordered Georgia to alert these citizens before cancelling their registrations and to allow them access to vote with proper identification. But election monitors said poll officials improperly turned away hundreds of these Georgians.

In addition, voting rights groups said hundreds of voters complained that the state ignored their requests for absentee ballots -- even multiple requests. Voting advocates said many of these reports came from communities of color.

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