I have been silent for two months, because I needed to shut up and observe. I needed to take as much information in as possible from as many sources as possible. Politics does and has always fascinated me, so much so I changed my major from journalism to political science as a sophomore at Indiana University. There is nothing comfortable about politics so there is nothing comfortable about political debate. You do not have to run for office, have a primetime slot on FOX News or MSNBC, or have a blog to feel heat for your opinions, you just share them.
As much as race, gender, workers’ rights, health care, and a host of other social issues will decide the vote for people on November 6, 2012 nothing will decide who is elected to countless offices in this country more than voter suppression or expansion. Simply put in this country, considering current social agendas, the more voters that show up the more likely it is liberals/progressives grab control. The party most in touch with the concerns of the ‘common man’ tends to win if they can get more common people out to the polls. This has been true since Reconstruction, when the Republican Party was considered to be a better representative of the concerns of those most in need of government support to find access to the American dream. This did not guarantee that those elected would put into place the programs and services wanted by their constituents but it did mean a measure of safety from those seeking to move in a different direction.
When considering what to expect this November nationally and locally remember that equation. P is probability, B is benefit, D is civic duty, and C is time. The battle of voter suppression vs. expansion is simply time, how much time it will take for an individual to not only vote but to register to vote. The probability that a person’s vote will effect an election combined with their belief that the person they vote for will carry themselves in a way that will benefit them plus how committed an individual voter is not only to their voting rights, but their social and political beliefs, must outweigh the amount of time any individual voter is willing to give to register to vote and then vote… for them to vote.
Time, political strategists figured out a long time ago the longer it takes for someone to vote the more restrictive the process becomes and the less those that feel disenfranchised are likely to take the steps necessary to become registered voters. Every voting act since the end of slavery was attacks on the time of those that can least afford to give time. Jim Crow laws to prevent Blacks in the South were attacks on time. To pay a poll tax would mean putting in countless of hours to earn the money needed to pay your tax and still provide for your family, literacy tests would require time to catch a person up to the educational level needed to answer the questions. Yes both could be reached and some Blacks did work hard to meet both of those requirements but the sacrifice was time.
More recently some counties and states have moved to purge the voting rights of many. Example being the States of Georgia and Michigan removing the rights of registered voters based on foreclosure lists and/or returned mail as proof an individual may not live in the county or state that registered. Time again is the tool being used, if you are still a resident of that county and state you now have to take time to prove you live where you say you live. When your residency is challenged it is challenged on every level; you must prove your citizenship, you must prove your identity, you must prove your residency, and you must prove you did not commit fraud. If you no longer live in the county or state where you were born it can take up to 12 weeks in some cases to receive your birth certificate. If you need identification you may need your birth certificate… you get the idea. A lot of time, of course many will argue that the right to vote is worth your time and add-on to those arguments that many people who do not vote have plenty of FREE time. No matter what your economic status, nobody has free time.
Ironically those that would seem to have the least amount of time are actually those that can make time to prove their right to vote or challenge any questions about their rights. Those that do not feel the need for government ‘safe guards’ usually can take time off from work, paid time or just leave the office for however long it takes to get the necessary documentation required to register to vote. Again, time is not free, when I need to take time off of work there are benefits in place for me to receive my pay for that time I am missing from work. An hourly employee, someone making minimum wage, a single parent that needs to pick their kids up from school, may not have the time to prove that as an American citizen they have the right to vote.
In the 2008 November election the states of Georgia and Ohio attacked time… specifically time. Making registered voters wait between 2 to 10 hours to vote. In Franklin County, Ohio the Attorney General had to order polls to stay open longer to allow voters that wanted to vote, the time and the opportunity to vote. In the 2010 Maryland election for governor a campaign manager for Republican candidate Bob Ehrlich ordered calls to phone numbers of people considered to be most likely African-American, on Election Day. Those calls were made to seem as if they were coming from Democratic Party officials’ informing them the election was an obvious land slide, nothing else to do but stay home and wait for the results, in other words “don’t waste your time voting”. This campaign manager was convicted for his actions, but it was revealed that the chief strategy considered for this campaign was voter suppression.
These are games played by both parties; Democrats usually work by redistricting which is also done by Republicans. Though I believe if you have earned the votes to make those moves, you can. I may not like it or agree with it, but if it is in the rules than those challenging you will have to fight harder and do a better job of organizing to stop you. Usually these fights are decided in the courts and if gerrymandering is discovered than those plans cannot move forward, that is what a ‘safe guard’ really is about. Time, how much time do you have to make a statement. How much time is worth for you to give to make sure your voice is heard?
PB+D is not always greater than C