Democracy Will Not Be Intimidated Or Suppressed

The Nov. 7 election is finally upon us. Every election since 2000 has been extremely important, and this one is no different. We live in a time where razor-thin margins determine victories. Unfortunately, along with close races, voter suppression efforts have become more widespread.

That's why the Teamsters Union joined the MyVote1 Consortium, a group of nonpartisan policy and grassroots organizations that have come together to help voters and improve the electoral process. MyVote1 and the Teamsters will operate voter hotlines on Nov. 7 to track, code and record complaints made by voters, so that problem "hot spots" can be identified and responded to in real time.

Unfortunately, we need this kind of effort these days. After numerous dubious elections, the federal government has failed to establish an adequate system capable of documenting reports of voting malfeasance.

Let's review our recent history of disenfranchisement. We all remember the 2000 electoral "train wreck" in Florida, with a U.S. Civil Rights Commission investigation confirming that serious and not isolated voting irregularities occurred in the Sunshine State.

Most of these failures disproportionately and adversely affected black and poor Floridians. The ballots of black voters were 10 times more likely to be rejected than non-black voters. Blacks made up 11 percent of Florida voters, but accounted for 54 percent of Florida's 180,000 spoiled ballots. Blacks appeared on purge lists more often and more erroneously than Hispanic or white voters. Poor counties had voting systems with higher spoilage rates than more affluent counties. There were accounts of voters being barred from casting their vote despite arriving before the polls closed. Remember, George W. Bush stole the election by only 537 votes in Florida.

In the 2004 presidential election, shenanigans took place in Ohio, a key battleground state. State officials did not count or barred 357,000 votes. Most of these registered were Democrats. Tens of thousands of registered voters found themselves purged from voter rolls. There were also reports of outright fraud and attempts to dissuade or prevent minorities from voting. A mere 118,601 votes decided the election in Ohio.

Electronic voting machines are increasingly suspect. Many who must use these machines to exercise their constitutional right now doubt if their votes even count. Credible reasons exist to doubt the integrity and security of the machines. One situation, still under investigation by the FBI, involves a former Maryland Democratic delegate receiving stolen computer disks possibly containing electronic voting software developed by a major manufacturer of electronic voting equipment. The disks were delivered anonymously. This disturbing news, and the fact that these devices do not provide a paper trail, obviously does not instill confidence in our current system.

Concerning this year's mid-term elections, it seems that little has changed. An Electionline.org report warns of potentially severe trouble in at least 10 states. Inaccurate voting machines, poorly trained poll workers, flawed voter registration rolls and new and more stringent identification requirements could be issues again. When will our nation get serious about fixing our elections?

Even attempts at voter intimidation persist. In October, the campaign of Orange County Republican congressional candidate, Tan D. Nguyen, sent letters to 14,000 registered Hispanic voters incorrectly warning that they could be jailed if they attempt to vote. By the way, the recipients of the letter all happened to be Democrats. This despicable act has no place in a society that values freedom and democracy.

If entitled voters are being deprived of voting, they should report problems to MyVote1's toll-free number 1-866-MyVote1. International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) members can call 1-877-4-IBT-NOW

After six years of chaos, electoral reform has not progressed. The United States should be ashamed and embarrassed of how it conducts elections. It is more important than ever to demonstrate that we care about democracy by voting. If we fail to vote and fight to ensure that people's rights are protected, then those who wish to silence our voice will determine our fate.