While the media's attention is embroiled in the seemingly endless Rep. Weiner scandal, the landscape of American democracy is changing in the most troubling and systematic ways imaginable. After years of suffering under the atrocious Jim Crow laws of 'separate but equal,' the people rallied behind those that were pushing for social change and progress in the nation. Although the struggle for justice remains in certain aspects of society, we have achieved great strides throughout the decades that cannot be ignored. But now, in an attempt to stifle our advancement and revert change, many conservative leaders are enacting new laws that make it just as difficult for the already disenfranchised to vote today as it was decades ago. It is James Crow Esq., Jim Crow's son -- better educated and polished -- but just as detrimental.
During the 2008 election, Democrats altered the electoral map in a historic fashion by creating a virtual sea of blue from coast-to-coast. Turning several key Republican strongholds like Iowa, Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Nevada, Indiana and more into Democratic wins, they watched as a majority of voters in those states elected the first African American president despite their support for George W. Bush four years prior. Yes, in fact, change was possible. It was perhaps this dramatic reversal of voting practices and the sheer numbers at the polls that scared Republicans the most, and the reason why they are now doing everything in their power to once again suppress the vote.
In Maine, state lawmakers recently decided to end a 38-year-old election day voter registration law. As if it weren't already difficult enough for everyday Americans to escape from work in order to exercise their right to vote, the state of Maine now expects people to take a separate day and register prior to election day. It is a clear attempt at discouraging and suppressing voters who already find the process too time consuming as they struggle to make ends meet. What better way to eliminate middle-class and poor voters that most likely vote Democratic? Make it all the more difficult for them to do so.
Wisconsin's notorious Republican Governor Scott Walker recently signed a bill requiring residents in his state to present a photo ID before being able to vote in any election. Further marginalizing the poor, elderly and rural citizens who may not possess driver's licenses or other identification, this outrageous maneuver is another attempt to silently eliminate a segment of the populace that the GOP doesn't side with. In Texas, Republican Gov. Rick Perry also signed a voter ID bill into law after it was rushed through the legislative process. And sadly, similar disturbing bills are being debated in places like Ohio, Iowa, Missouri and more -- all, not surprisingly, battleground states.
In the always hotly contested state of Florida, Republican Gov. Rick Scott signed into law legislation that cuts the days of early voting from 14 to just eight. Not only does such a regressive measure make it more difficult for third-party groups to register voters, but it once again seriously undercuts the amount of individuals able to reach the polls. The fewer options and less flexibility there is, the more difficult it will be for people to make it -- especially those who do not have the luxury of making their own schedules.
In the past, people of color and the poor were methodically driven from voting by deceitful measures like a 'poll tax.' The calculated and dangerous tactics at play now are just as troubling, if not more, to our fundamental democratic principles and the notion of free and fair elections. It is a real threat to equality and justice in every sense of the word. If voters are secretly silenced before 2012, and new rules and regulations are altering the process all together, then we have all lost -- and that's the real election fraud.
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