Nel's New Day

October 2, 2014

Don’t Love Your Precious Vote

One year ago today, I was getting ready to marry my partner of almost 45 years, possible after the Supreme Court decided that LGBT people should have marriage equality. On the same day, GOP members of the Congress had decided that the government should be shut down in an aborted effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The dictator of the House, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) refused to hold a vote to keep the government running.

My partner and I married on October 6, and eleven days later the House GOP members decided that the shutdown was a failure. The public got angry because the parks were closed, and small businesses were hurt by the conservatives’ petty actions. Since that time, the ACA has proved to be far more successful than the GOP wanted, and the country found out it lost at least $24 billion because of the shutdown. Federal GOP legislators are still a little in shock over the response to their bullying tactics. They mutter about closing the government every time that the “kick the can” philosophy comes to a deadline, but the shrill cries are gone. Millions of people in the country without health insurance before January 1, 2015 now have the insurance benefits of the wealthier in the country.

In 33 days, most of the adults in the nation will be able to vote for a new Congress. Thanks to the lies on the Fox network, many of them will vote against their best interests. No one knows whether Republicans will achieve a majority in the Senate; the campaigns are like a see-saw as revelations and court cases change the status from one day to the next. If the GOP controls both chambers in the Congress, the president can still veto bills because the majority in both the House and the Senate will be too slight to override the veto. More Republicans on the state level, however, will vote for laws that keep people from voting.

People in two states are still trying to allow deserving people to cast their votes in the upcoming election. Although a decision from the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals recently enforced restrictive voting laws in Wisconsin, civil rights’ groups have asked the Supreme Court to bar the new photo ID requirement. Today, they argued that ten percent of the Wisconsin voters already registered might be kept from making their voice heard through the ballot box. Justice Elena Kagan, in charge of emergency filings for the area that includes Wisconsin, can act on her own or share the issues with other justices.

Wisconsin passed the photo ID law over three years ago, but challenges to the law meant that it was used for only one state primary election. The state has done nothing to implement the law for the upcoming election, and about 300,000 registered voters lack one of the nine types of photo IDs mandated for voting. Many of these people lack the time and/or the money to get one of these IDs or a substitute ID card from the state in time for this year’s general election. Absentee voting has already started in the state, and those voters could be disenfranchised by the current ruling.

The 4th Circuit Court made the opposite decision from the 7th in ordering a lower court to block two new voting restrictions in North Carolina. To avoid disenfranchising minorities, the state must reinstate same-day voter registration and allow voters to cast ballots even if they go to the wrong precinct. The two-to-one ruling from the panel stated that “whether the number is thirty or thirty-thousand, surely some North Carolina minority voters will be disproportionately adversely affected in the upcoming election” and that it was important to act now, since “there could be no do-over and no redress” once the election was over.

The lower court “failed to adequately consider North Carolina’s history of voting discrimination,” according to the federal appeals court, and the new law eliminated “voting mechanisms successful in fostering minority participation.”

North Carolina passed the law soon after the Supreme Court struck down a provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that protected minority voters in areas with a history of discrimination. “The election laws in North Carolina prior to House Bill 589’s enactment encouraged participation by qualified voters,” the appeals court ruled yesterday. “But the challenged House Bill 589 provisions stripped them away. The public interest thus weighs heavily in Plaintiffs’ favor.”

In restricting voting for minorities and low-income people, GOP legislators have used the falsehood of voter fraud. A case of voter fraud that could effect the outcome of the election of Arkansas election attorney general has been revealed, and the GOP is not happy. After Pulaski County Clerk Larry Crane discovered that the GOP candidate for this position, Leslie Rutledge, is registered to vote in Washington, D.C. and Virginia, he canceled her Arkansas voter registration. She can’t be a candidate if she isn’t eligible to vote in the state.

The former Gov. Mike Huckabee legal aide accused Crane of political motivation. She said, “Taking a person’s right to vote away from them, as Democrat Larry Crane has done, is reprehensible and a desperate attempt to help the campaign of a Democratic candidate who lacks the experience and good judgment to protect the citizens of our great state.”

Crane followed Amendment 51 of the Arkansas Constitution after he received a complaint that alleged Rutledge was ineligible to vote or hold state office because of her registration in multiple states. The investigation showed the complaint to be accurate, and Amendment 51 required Crane to cancel Rutledge’s registration. She had used a change of address form for a move from one Little Rock house to another instead of completing a new voter registration, required when she moved to Pulaski County from another county of state. Rutledge claimed that the fault was Crane’s because he should have searched all the counties in the country for duplicate information. The part from the constitution that Rutledge cited did not apply because she didn’t re-register after moving back to Arkansas.

Rutledge registered to vote in Washington in July 2008 but voted absentee in Arkansas in the 2008 general election. She then registered in Virginia in 2010 and later filed a change of address to change the Little Rock address that she used in a 2006 registration.  Washington was supposed to notify Arkansas about the registration in 2008, and Virginia should have notified Washington in 2010. Neither jurisdiction did. According to law, neither the Secretary of State’s office nor the Board of Elections can review Rutledge’s plight. Her only solution is to file a lawsuit. If she isn’t registered within 30 days of the election—three days from now—she can’t be elected.


Arkansas has one of the most restrictive voter ID laws in the nation. Over 1,000 absentee ballots were thrown out after the new law went into effect, and Rutledge was one of those who fiercely protected the restrictive law. Defending Rutledge is the Republican National Lawyers’ Association that has been instrumental in pushing mass voter purges across the country, including the defense to purge voters within 90 days of the election.

As in some of the cases of other possible voter fraud, photo ID at the polls wouldn’t stop this fraudulent action. Now, however, a Republican may understand how the millions of people feel about her party taking away their ability to vote. And she wants to be attorney general!

One hundred years ago women weren’t allowed to vote in the United States; 50 years ago black citizens were taxed and persecuted if they tried to vote. At this time, the GOP refuses to work to lower student loan interest rates to the same rate as that offered big banks and filibusters higher education bills for veterans. The GOP wants to ship jobs overseas and give even more money to big business. The black citizens in Ferguson (MO), ruled by white people, learned their lesson: voter registration in the town is up 25 percent.

Taking over Hong Kong from Britain in 1997, China promised people in Hong Kong that they would have universal suffrage by 2017. The city’s Basic Law or “mini-constitution” allowed the city to continue its own legal and financial system, an independent judiciary, freedom of the press and the right to protest. When China told Hong Kong citizens that they could vote only for pre-approved candidates, hundreds of demonstrators protested, facing tear gas, pepper spray, and water cannon.

If people are willing to face tear gas for the right to vote in Hong Kong, people in the United States should be willing to vote. I’m lucky to live in a state with mandated vote-by-mail; other people have to stand in lines, sometimes in the heat or cold. Some people in the 21st century claim that they refuse to vote as a protest. Not to vote is actually a vote. No changes can be made without learning who are willing to give rights to all people in the United States, not just the top ten percent, and then vote for those people. Voting is precious. Let’s not lose the right.


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