When it comes to voting rights, Democrats push voter protection while Republicans shout voter fraud in a crowded polling place. Democrats think anyone who can vote should vote; Republicans think everyone who should vote can vote. This difference in orientation frames the debate over America's civic sacrament, a debate that must be fought as scrupulously as the battle over ideas since both are crucial in shaping the narrative of the election and the government.
The Democratic strategy is to push voter protection. We've got hotlines run by the DNC 800-311-VOTE and websites aplenty to educate people on their voting rights. Lawyers and legal observers are on call to work with election incident clearinghouses to address irregularities, uninformed poll workers, new voting systems, purged voter registration lists, voter suppression, misinformation, and intimidation tactics to ensure elections are administrated in a fair and transparent manner so all voters will have fair access to the process.
Here are voter protection issues that might affect you:
What are your rights? You have the right to view a sample ballot at the polling place before voting; to cast a ballot once in you in line before the published closing time; and to cast a provisional ballot (though I think it's better to call a hotline and try to work out the challenge beforehand rather than adding a vote to the pile of provisional votes that may or may not ever be counted depending on the margins of victory).
What's with the machines? Everywhere I go, people ask "Why bother if the fix is already in?" The fix shouldn't be in -- report any problems ASAP to the poll workers and to a hotline. Know what machinery is being used; any research regarding possible tampering and computer malfunctions, particularly with the touch screens; and whether there are sufficient protections for disabled voters so that, pursuant to federal law, they are enabled to vote independently. As an open source elections advocate; I think until we crack the codes, we must keep a close eye on the documented problems with machines to be sure that votes are counted as cast.
Deployed military or overseas voters? Apply for automated online Federal Write-in Absentee Ballots if they haven't received their mail-in ballots yet. see Democrats Abroad http://www.democratsabroad.org/vote or the Overseas Voting Foundation https://www.overseasvotefoundation.org/ websites for more MOVE Act http://www.huffingtonpost.com/christine-pelosi/democracy-at-risk-act-now_b_772590.html details
Lost home due to foreclosure or fraudclosure? Families who lost homes should check with your Secretary of State for direction -- in California, if you lost your home to foreclosure you can use the prior permanent residence where you were registered to vote as your address for the purpose of voting. Go to the polling place assigned to your old address, vote early at the registrar's office, or get a Vote-by-Mail ballot.
Need time off from work to vote? You can take up to two hours off work to vote without loss of pay by giving your employer notice. Plan to do so by the end of the day on Friday, Oct. 29.
No childcare? You can bring your children under age 18 into the voting booth with you. Many families do so as a way to teach civic responsibility.
Challenges to your right to vote based upon your citizenship, residence or identity? The ONLY person who can challenge your right to vote is an official precinct worker. Intimidating voters is against the law.
Meanwhile, the Republican strategy is to shout voter fraud in a crowded polling place. Not content with the voter suppression ads like the despicable Latinos for Reform "Don't Vote" http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/10/19/latinos-for-reform-vote-nevada_n_767991.html, the GOP launched a coordinated deliberate "if we lost it you stole it" rant expressed by ultraconservatives from Grover Norquist http://www.politico.com/arena/perm/Grover_Norquist_E277A58F-BA84-4B54-8B32-992B439E07F6.html to Sharron Angle http://www.lvrj.com/news/gop-fires-warning-shots-on-nevada-voting-105848328.html Angle even went so far as to accuse Senator Harry Reid of trying to steal the election in a fundraising letter. As the Las Vegas Sun headline explained: "Allegations fly at polls, but no evidence of wrongdoing" http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2010/oct/27/mischief-ballot-silly-season-upon-us/
Yes, "no evidence" -- but that won't stop the accusations from escalating, especially where Republicans fear they're losing. Aspiring voters should remember who wanted them to vote and who didn't.
When you lose you lose. You try your best, work your heart out, yet sometimes the voters just go a different way. That's hard to accept on its own terms, much less when coupled with proprietary code machines, human error, military and overseas voters, collapsed polling places, first-time poll workers and hyper-stressed poll watchers, any combination of which could have swung the race in a close election.
Everyone should be focused on finding out what actually happened -- not what you feared, not what you hoped, not what you alleged -- but what actually transpired so we have a full and fair count. Candidates, don't abandon a recount under pressure and don't hype up blame games without evidence. Americans have enough technological and logistical obstacles to overcome in order to vote; GOP false allegations of voter fraud should not be among them.
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