10/15/2012 05:02 pm ET Updated Dec 15, 2012

Voter Suppression Is Treason


Voter suppression is treason.

Yes, that's what I said: treason.

I know that is an extreme word. There are few words in the English language uglier than "treason." It strikes at the gut, triggers a shiver of revulsion, prompts incredulity. How could any American really commit treason?

But then we look at the precise meaning of the word: "a violation of allegiance to one's state," and suddenly the deliberate sabotage of any qualified citizen's access to the voting booth fits the description perfectly.

Allegiance to the United States of America must forever be demonstrated by uncompromising devotion to a government of the people, by the people, for the people as determined by our majority vote -- by a majority vote of every citizen qualified to cast a ballot, not by a gerrymandered subset designed to corrupt an election and defile one's state.

It is admittedly difficult to apply the word "traitor" to our countrymen and countrywomen who are working to suppress the suffrage of those likely to vote for an opposition candidate. Seems just a bit over the top, doesn't it?

And so we dearly want to take the edge off of what they are doing. Can't we cut them some slack? After all, there are so many people involved in this widespread campaign to obstruct access to certain voters. It can't be all that wrong if a lot of seemingly upstanding citizens are doing it, coast to coast. And it's not like this is unheard-of. Remember good old Donald Segretti, who led Richard Nixon's "dirty tricks" campaign? Hey, this stuff's been going on forever, hasn't it? All's fair in love and war and politics, right?

Well, no. Even Segretti's infamous dirty tricks campaign was largely confined to infiltrating opposition organizations and sabotaging their campaigns. Political pros street fighting with other political pros. It did not extend to obstructing or denying innocent citizens' access to the ballot.

OK, so maybe this isn't politics as usual. But how about the big problem we have with fraudulent voting? Am I not slandering the efforts of sincere patriots who are out to do nothing more than ensure that no more votes are cast by people long dead or fictitious? How about that? Perhaps they are really preserving the purity of our elections, not corrupting them.

That argument would have some validity if there were, in fact, a big problem with fraudulent voting. But there isn't. There is no big problem. I know that facts are not fashionable these days, but that is the reality here. The surprisingly rare instances of voter fraud that have been documented by independent, nonpartisan observers and investigators represent the tiniest proportion of votes cast and pale in contrast with the wholesale suppression of entire groups of people against whom the barriers to the ballot are being erected with -- shall I say it again? -- treasonous effect.

This is not to say that there isn't a legitimate job for sincere patriots to tackle in order to ensure purity in our election processes. In addition to dismantling the ham-handed rules and legislation currently being promulgated to suppress voting, they can tackle the truly frightening challenge of computer fraud in counting votes cast. Unlike the myth of massive voter fraud, this threat is real.

If you want to disrupt your sleep for many nights to come, log onto This is the home of a nonpartisan, nonprofit election-watchdog group that continually tracks and documents a grisly array of both actual and incipient corruption of American voting. The more the process is computerized, the more there is to worry about and to be vigilant about and to take action about. Rep. Rush Holt (D-Hopewell), a rocket scientist who knows something about the capacity to use computers for good and for ill, has been particularly aggressive in his legislative efforts to protect our democratic voting processes from "violation of allegiance."

Look, I'm not saying that all those folks out there who are making it difficult for their fellow citizens to vote are on a par with Timothy McVeigh. Many and possibly most of them truly believe they are working to solve a real problem to save our country from corrupt elections. Others have justified their actions by saying that, sure, let's not kid ourselves, vote suppression is certainly designed to tilt the final count in favor of their candidate but, hey, that's just politics. And so they will predictably reject or deride the notion that their actions are equivalent to treason.

Well, I cannot judge anyone else's motivations. Far be it from me to accuse any of these vote-suppressing zealots with the intent to commit treason. I'm not talking intent. But I am talking effect.

Ralph Waldo Emerson has the last word on that: "What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say."