Although there have been some significant wins in the courts pertaining to voter ID and voter suppression tactics, do not think for one second that the battle is over and we can soley focus on registering voters and getting them to vote.
Did you know in 46 states private citizens have the ability to challenge your right to vote? Not only can they challenge you prior to Election Day, in the 39 states that currently allow private citizens to challenge voters inside the polls, only 15 require challengers to produce documentation to support their claims. Similarly, of the 28 states that allow challenges before Election Day, only eight require challengers to provide reliable evidence that the voter is ineligible. These anemic proof requirements open up the process to abuse by political operatives seeking to use challenges to suppress or intimidate voters. They can literally park themselves at the polling locations, find someone they suspect, and make a challenge that you’re ineligible to vote. When that is done you will need to provide proof that you are indeed entitled to vote.
Did you know that there is a Tea Party backed organization called True the Vote that is trying to recruit and train 1 million “poll watchers”? Under the guise of preventing voter fraud these poll watchers intend to disperse themselves across targeted polling locations and challenge individual’s eligibility to vote.
Is this legal? Absolutely, there have been laws on the books since the 19th century that empowered private citizens to make these challenges. These were post reconstruction laws that was put in place to suppress newly enfranchised voters like African-Americans and women.
In my opinion the plan is not to stop you from voting, the plan is to intimidate you and disrupt the voting process. Maybe someone will need to go home to get the proper proof that they are indeed eligible to vote. Maybe the line at the polls gets too long and someone becomes impatient and decides that they’ve had enough. Maybe someone feels embarrassed and decides not to even bother. All of these situations will translate to fewer voters. This is their primary objective.
While everyone is focused on the front door of combating voter suppression through the courts, plans are being made to sneak in the back door. We need to expose this for what it is, another form of voter suppression. I have seen minimal media attention on this so I suspect that it is not high on the news media’s radar yet. It’s our job to get it there.
We cannot tolerate anything that impedes our ability to exercise our right to vote. Please take a moment at watch this video.
Ernest R. Heyward is the Founder and President of the Marketplace for Social Awareness and Social Responsibility Inc.