Aug 18, 2012

While every election is important, in 80 days we will have an election that will have a profound impact on our short-term and long-term future.  Many states across the country are purging voter rolls and enacting voter identification laws.  If you were like me you might initially think, "what's the big deal about requiring ID at the polls?  Who doesn't have ID?"  I thought this initially because I remember being surprised the first time I voted that I was not asked for my ID.  Not an unreasonable idea.  I also remember thinking, "well I guess there hasn't been a problem."  At the same time, I still thought it should be required.  So I actually agree with the theory of voter ID.  Now since all of these voter suppression efforts have been underway, I am of the opinion if ain't broke, don't fix it.  The fact of the matter is voter fraud is not a problem.  With such clear evidence of virtually no voter fraud, like many others, I'm left to question why the urgency to enact laws and purge voter rolls now so close to a pivotal national election.  Yes I agree with the theory of it.  However, there is something very sinister about trying to actualize this theory at this point in time when elections have the potential to be narrowly decided.  Many of these new laws have been legally contested but ultimately upheld in court.  So they are indeed the law of the land.  The fight to overturn these laws may continue.  However, we need to succeed in making our voices heard loud and clear on November 6th.  And not take a reactive stance after the election has already been decided. Post-election day lawsuits may help subsequent elections, but they will not help this crucial 2012 election cycle.

So who doesn't have a current government issued picture ID?  Mostly seniors and ethnic minorities.  Many of the elderly have expired driver's licenses and it has not occurred to them that they would need to get a current state ID.  If you do not have a driver's license at all, it may not occur to you to have a state-issued ID because there simply aren't many situations that require individuals to have government issued picture ID.  Off the top of my head, the only time I can think of where it is required is air and international travel.  Even for employment, I believe you can offer other forms of ID such as a birth certificate or social security card.  There may not have been a sense of urgency for having a government issued picture ID before, but there is now.  We have to protect this precious right.  I won't go on and on about the importance of being informed and I don't want to just talk about this injustice, I'd like to offer some proactive suggestions to make sure our voting rights are not denied:

1.  Talk to your older family members.  Check to see if they have a current state issued form of picture ID.  If they do not, make it happen.  Get them to the DMV or Secretary of State office to get that ID.  Do not wait until the last minute.  It is worth it.  As much as I don't want to go through the hassle, I will make the trip to DMV because my driver's license has my old address on it.  I live in a battleground state and I'm not trying to have problems on that day.  

2.  Re-register.  Some states like Florida are trying to purge voter rolls.  If you have the slightest concern that you were wrongfully purged, register again.  Do not think that current elected officials will do right by you and notify you in a timely manner.  Everything about these voter suppression efforts is shady.  Aside from lawsuits after election day, YOU will be the one on the losing end.

3.  Absentee ballot option.  If you know there is a chance you and/or loved one cannot vote on election day or during early voting, file an absentee ballot.  I started a new job in a different state the day before the 2008 election.  There was no way my voice would not be included.  I found out how to get an absentee ballot, got it and filed my absentee ballot on time.  Yeah absentee ballots may not be counted in clearly decided elections, but they will be counted if it is close.  If yours is not included, it can't be counted.  

4.  College students.  Some states are trying to stop college students from registering in their college town.  Get that absentee ballot before you start classes.  If your fall semester has already started, request the absentee ballot now.  If you are eligible to vote in your college town, get registered right away.

5.  Know what is required for your state.  www.gottavote.org is a great resource.

There is a lot of cynicism surrounding politics and rightfully so.  However, staying home on election day and not exercising your right to vote does not help the situation.  Your individual vote can influence the outcome of the election.  The stakes are high.  Everybody knows it, thus the voter suppression.  They are cheating and trying to make it legal.  Like I said, your vote does influence the outcome of the election.  There are millions of Americans that counting on your vote because they feel the way you do.  they are counting on your vote and quite frankly you are counting on your vote and theirs whether you believe it or not.  If you still need to be convinced, I will just end by saying if there was no value in your vote; if your vote did not matter; if your vote did not influence the outcome of an election, the opposition would not go to such extreme measures to stop you from exercising your right to vote. 

BTW:  The lady in the picture is 93 year old woman Vivian Applewhite from PA.  She has been the face of the elderly vote.  She recently protected her long held right to vote by obtaining a current government issued picture ID.


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