Opinion: Defend the vote

Matt Vroom

Matt Vroom

By Eric Naing

Former Vice President Al Gore should put on a raccoon-skin cap and do his best Davey Crockett impersonation. Florida was his Alamo in the 2000 election. But aside from the horrors of hanging chads and Katherine Harris’ face, the most disturbing part of the whole situation was the mass disenfranchisement of voters that took place. It looks as if the Republicans are taking a cue from the Hollywood playbook and are trying to do the same thing all over again, and this time, with bigger and more explosions.

According to The Associated Press, this year the Democrats registered more new voters than the Republicans in every state. Couple this with a higher voter turnout that almost always favors the Democrats in an election, and you can see why the Republican Party is sweating.

To counter, the GOP is resorting to the old Republican adage, “If you can’t beat ’em, cheat.” While the Democrats have been caught practicing voter fraud in the past (Chicago, I’m looking at you), this year it’s the Republican Party that is guilty of mass-voter suppression.

n In Nevada, the Republican Party hired a voter registration group named Voter Outreach of America. The group targeted people in public places and registered thousands to vote. Unfortunately, it was recently revealed by former employees that Voter Outreach of America was only interested in Republican registrations and shredded many of the Democratic ones.

n In Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, anticipating a high voter turnout, Democratic election officials requested 679,000 ballots, but were given 250,000 fewer ballots than requested by (surprise, surprise) a Republican.

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    n In New Hampshire, during the 2000 election, Republican Jim Tobin hired a firm to jam the lines of Democratic phone banks on election night. Mr. Tobin resigned over the scandal but has recently found a new job as chairman of President Bush’s 2004 New England campaign.

    n In South Dakota, the Republican nephew of Senate candidate John Thune was caught handling absentee ballots when he was not qualified to do so. The official in charge of South Dakota’s Republican voter-registration drive recently resigned amid charges of voter fraud. He has since been reassigned to work Republican voter registration in Ohio. As you can see, with the Republicans, it’s “Leave no fraudster behind.”

    n And speaking of Ohio, Republicans are paying thousands of “poll watchers” to challenge the qualifications of as many voters as possible. Not surprisingly, the bulk of these poll watchers will be harassing voters in heavily Democratic areas like Dayton and Cleveland.

    All of these facts point to a disturbing theme in today’s Republican Party: They are willing to do anything necessary – even undermine the democratic process – in order to win an election.

    There are many people out there who avoid politics by saying that their vote does not count. While I normally would want to beat these people over the head with my voter-registration card, I might have to agree with them this year. Easily hacked voting machines that lack paper trails and shredded voter-registration forms do not send out the best message regarding the sanctity of voting.

    Many of these voter-suppression methods also reek of racism. In the 2000 election, the Florida GOP’s flawed felon list unfairly barred thousands of people from voting, most of whom were black. A similar stunt was tried earlier this year by Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, but this time it was rejected when the list was again found to be deeply flawed. Voter suppression in inner-city areas in Ohio and Wisconsin show that the Republicans are actively trying to suppress the black vote.

    With all the talk of securing elections in Iraq and Afghanistan, we seem to have forgotten to secure our own election. Voting is one of the basic rights we have as citizens. We need to defend it from anybody who tries to take it away.

    Eric Naing is a junior in LAS. His column runs Wednesdays. He can be reached at [email protected].