Thursday, May 5, 2011

Voter Involvement vs. Voter Suppression

In recent years, Republicans have been at the forefront of denying voters their right to select our elected officials. Of course, the most egregious example is the decision by the Republican-dominated Supreme Court in the 2000 presidential election that stopped the vote count in Florida and handed the election to George W. Bush. More recently, there have been efforts to discourage voters who typically vote Democratic by the Republican governors in Wisconsin and New Jersey.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has a well-deserved reputation for ignoring the law and behaving more like a tyrant than an elected official. The newly minted Republican governor whose notoriety is rooted in his bypassing of the rules to get his union-busting legislation passed, has also been at the forefront of voter suppression. Claiming to be working toward the elimination of voter fraud (a problem which is essentially non-existent), Walker’s legislation makes it more difficult for college students and minorities to vote by implementing stricter identification standards and more stringent residency restrictions.

Here in New Jersey, Republican governor Chris Christie does not yet have the national tyrannical reputation that Walker has, but he is working to make it more difficult for people who lean Democratic to vote. Christie is actively campaigning against same-day registration, using his typically subtle tone, calling this activity “crazy.”

Now, two Democratic Assemblymen, Lou Greenwald and Wayne DeAngelo, have introduced legislation that would enhance the democratic process by making it easier to vote by mail. Their proposal would allow a voter to request vote-by-mail ballots automatically each election cycle. The legislation has built-in safeguards to ensure that ballots are not sent to voters who move or die. It remains to be seen whether Governor Christie will support this measure, which encourages participation in the electoral process. I’m not holding my breath.

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