While neither of the two major political parties is known for altruism, it is clear the Republicans place their lust for power above the needs of the electorate. This has become profoundly apparent in this year’s election with their nationwide voter suppression initiative.
This is not the first time the GOP has pulled out all the stops to grab power. The 2000 presidential election was won by Al Gore - both in the popular vote and, if Florida had been allowed to count all its votes, in the Electoral College. But a politically-motivated Supreme Court would not permit the votes in the Sunshine State to be counted, giving the election to a man who drove the nation into debt, widened the income gap, ignored warnings of a horrific terrorist attack, and placed young American men and women in harm’s way under false pretenses. The Supreme Court’s rationale was so flawed that the justices even noted that their decision should not be considered a precedent for future cases of this type.
Now, in 2012, the Republican oligarchs are taking another tack at usurping the will of the electorate. They are doing everything they can to ensure that groups that vote overwhelmingly Democratic are denied the fundamental right to vote. It started with their destruction of ACORN, whose only “crime” was trying to get African-Americans registered to vote. Now, they are hard at work suppressing Democratic voters in key swing states like Pennsylvania and Ohio under the guise of “voter fraud”, even though it has been amply demonstrated that such fraud is virtually non-existent.
Voter advocacy groups are fighting these tactics in the courts with very limited success. In Ohio, after protesters rallied against extended voting hours only in Republican counties, election officials relented and reduced voting hours consistently across the state - hardly a victory for the people of Ohio. In Pennsylvania, a Republican judge ruled that hypothetical unworkable scenarios (like each denied voter appealing to a judge on election day) trump common sense - showing that the U.S. Supreme Court is not the only part of the judiciary that is under the influence of corporate despots.
The judicial battle will certainly extend to Election Day and beyond. But we are clearly on a path to inaugurate the second un-elected President in 12 years. The Pennsylvania decision will be appealed to the state supreme court, but those in the know don’t hold out much hope for a reversal. The U.S. Justice Department is looking into violations of the 1964 Voting Rights Act, but with GOP voter suppression so widespread, is this too little too late?
But there’s another approach to ensure a fair election. While continuing to fight these draconian laws, activists should, in parallel, work within the system and get the requisite voter ID cards in the hands of the underrepresented electorate. They can do this by providing rides to senior citizens to the voter registration offices and by promoting vote-by-mail in those states where it is allowed. They can help voters to navigate through the government bureaucracy to obtain the proof needed to secure ID cards.
There’s not a lot of time between now and election day, and the GOP is counting on making legitimate voting more difficult. But if we do nothing, we get the government we deserve. We observed that lesson in 2000. Did we learn anything from it?