THE BLOG

They Want Us to Stay Home on Nov. 4

10/21/2014 04:13 pm ET | Updated Dec 21, 2014
  • Lee A. Saunders President, American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO
AP

In recent weeks, a series of court rulings blocked implementation of discriminatory voter identification laws in Wisconsin, Arkansas and Texas. But on Saturday, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed a lower court and allowed Texas to move ahead in what U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder called "a major step backward to let stand a law...designed to discriminate."

It was a frustrating setback for everyone who wants to see more people voting, not fewer, on Election Day.

In far too many parts of the country, right-wing extremists are succeeding in their attempts to keep Americans away from the polls, emboldened by a Supreme Court ruling that dismantled sections of the Voting Rights Act.

The ink hadn’t even dried on the Court’s opinion before right-wing legislatures and governors started enacting laws to restrict voting, proving the justices wrong. These reactionaries were terrified by the 2008 and 2012 elections in which a broad coalition of women, young people, African Americans, Latinos and other minorities turned out in droves to vote for President Obama.

Since the Supreme Court’s ruling, nine states (Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin) passed strict new voter ID laws targeting minorities and young people.

Eight states reduced early voting hours and days, making it harder for working people to cast their ballot.

Seventeen states now require a birth certificate or other proof of citizenship to register to vote, complicating the process for seniors who may no longer have such documentation or for women who changed their names after marriage.

Reports indicate that 11 percent of eligible voters do not have government-issued identification. The numbers are even higher for senior citizens, young people and African Americans.

Not content with merely passing legislation that makes it harder to vote, these lawmakers and their corporate backers are also waging a campaign of misinformation and intimidation, aided by dark money and shadow organizations.

Last month, the billionaire Koch brothers-funded Americans for Prosperity, which pledged to spend $125 million to sway the 2014 elections, mailed misleading voter registration forms to thousands of North Carolina voters. The forms were riddled with errors, conflicting registration deadlines and incorrect contact information. You have to wonder about an organization’s agenda when its success is dependent on people not voting.

Not since the end of the Civil War have we seen such transparent attacks on our most sacred right. Worse, the attacks are justified by the lie that voters are untrustworthy and perpetrating widespread fraud. It isn’t true. Investigation after investigation shows voter fraud is almost non-existent.

The truth is, the tea party and other elected extremists cannot bring themselves to believe that voters just aren’t buying the poisonous policies they’re trying to sell. So they operate under the belief that if you won’t vote for them, you shouldn’t vote at all. They’d rather you stay home. It’s a sad fact from the folks who claim a majority shareholder status on patriotism.

But at a time when virtually all of the income gains of the last few years have gone to those at the very top of the economic ladder and when productivity and corporate profits have exploded with absolutely no correlating benefits to workers and most Americans, there is nothing more urgent than exercising the right to vote and changing the policies that have bred the economic inequality that now has a chokehold on our great country. 

That’s why the members and retirees of AFSCME plan to knock on more doors, make more phone calls and turn out more votes than ever before in a mid-term election. We believe our country is better off when everyone is involved and everyone votes. There is too much at stake for voters to sit this one out.

Supporters of more restrictions on voting know that when a majority of Americans go to the polls their grip on power is weakened. That’s why they are trying so hard to stop us. Don’t let them. Use your vote.

Remember: Election Day is Tuesday, Nov.4.