Disenfranchising Large Segments of Americans
by Walter Brasch
Several hundred thousand American citizens won’t be voting in presidential primary elections—and it’s not their fault.
In Pennsylvania, for example, a registered voter who needed an absentee ballot had to submit the request at least one full week before the election, and then return the ballot no less than four days before the election.
But, what if circumstances changed? What if that person became injured or had to leave the state after April 19, but before the election, Tuesday? If it was April 20, you could not receive an absentee ballot. You could still vote in person, but if you couldn’t get to the polls, you would be disenfranchised. There’s nothing you could do. In one week, you lost the right to vote because bureaucratic rules blocked you from receiving a ballot—even if you could get that ballot to your county registrar of voters by the end of the day of the election.
Let’s say you were injured a day after the deadline to request a ballot, and want to vote in person on Election Day. If you’re now temporarily in a wheelchair, can’t drive, walk, or get into a regular car, you’ll have to use a medical transport. That’s a minimum of $150 round trip from your home to the polls.
Politicians and their political parties say they want all American citizens to register and vote. There are voter registration campaigns at colleges, in bars, at fire halls, and street fairs. But, the politicians really don’t care about your vote.
In Virginia, Gov. Terry McAuliffe issued an executive order to allow felons who completed their sentences to be again given the right to vote. This affects more than 200,000 persons. But, the Republicans are crying “foul.” They say that felons might vote for Democrats, and on that basis alone they want to keep felons from voting rights. Of course, the Republican establishment has no basis for its assumption—especially since there are a lot of Republican politicians who have been convicted of felonies.
Currently, only two states—Maine and Vermont—allow incarcerated prisoners the right to vote by absentee ballot. Twenty-four states allow felons the right to vote after they complete their incarceration and end of parole. Fourteen states allow felons on parole, but who completed their incarceration, to vote. In 10 states, anyone convicted of a felony permanently loses all right to vote, even if it’s decades after completing their sentences, even if they are now model citizens.
Giving the vote to Hispanics also annoys the Republican right wing. They believe people with dark skin and black hair must be illegal aliens and, thus, shouldn’t vote. Even those with legal status who are serving in the U.S. military should be banned from citizenship and voting, say the extreme right wing. Like the Republicans in Virginia, the Republicans in the Southwest vigorously object to citizenship and voting rights for anyone who might vote for those who aren’t Republicans.
It’s the same Republicans who have gone to great lengths to require all forms of identification in order to register and vote. They claim it’s to prevent voter fraud. But, the number of cases of voter fraud in the past two election cycles is about the same as the chance of being hit by a torpedo while rowing in the lake in New York’s Central Park.
It has become obvious in the past few years that voting is no longer a constitutional right—but a political football.
[Dr. Brasch’s latest book is Fracking America, the only comprehensive overview of the history, process, and effects of high volume horizontal fracturing. The book also looks at numerous social, economic, and political issues, including the relationship between the oil/gas industry and politicians.]