THE BLOG

How Long Do You Have to Stand In Line to Vote Before Your Civil Rights Are Violated?

It's time we reclaim the media narrative: it seems as though every 15 minutes, a different news network is decrying how the integrity of our elections has been marred and how, no matter what happens now, the result of November 4th should be called into question.

Well, they are right...but not in regard to the insipid ACORN "voter fraud" scam.

What we ought to be talking about right now is voter suppression--and the failure of almost everyone in a position of authority to tackle the issue.

One glaring example is the case of the Democratic secretary of state of Pennsylvania, Pedro Cortes, issuing a policy that would only provide emergency paper ballots to voting precincts when every single voting machine breaks down. So, if you are a voter in Pennsylvania and 7 of your 8 precinct voting machines are broken--well, you're just going to have to tough this one out.

What an outrage! And what did the consortium of audacious civil rights organizations do? They filed a lawsuit calling on Secretary Cortes to provide emergency ballots when more than half of the voting machines in a precinct break down. Now that's bold reform! These civil rights groups, many of whom I work with, ought to be ashamed of themselves. Why? Because this is a half-measure that does not redress the fundamental inequity at hand.

To illustrate my point, all I need to do is recall my 2004 voting experience at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio. Two voting machines were provided. One broke down. That meant that students had to stand in line for 10 hours before they could vote. In fact, the final voter at Kenyon College cast his ballot at 4:04AM the day after the election, when every network had already declared George. W. Bush the winner.

By the standards of the state of Pennsylvania, Kenyon students would have no recourse to a supplemental emergency ballot in this situation.

Asking to make this situation just a little less unjust is unacceptable. By asking Pennsylvania to issue emergency ballots only after a majority of machines have broken down, civil rights groups seek to mitigate some of the worst effects of this policy. But the fact remains: it's still a terrible policy. It's still disenfranchising voters who have neither the time nor the resources to wait in interminable lines. Demanding anything less than full access to the polls is an abandonment of both our principles and the people we claim to speak for.

Is this really the best we can do? We cannot accept these lukewarm responses that reflect political relationships far more than democratic principles. We must speak up about the other voter suppression tactics occurring, including deceptive information campaigns, stringent photo ID restrictions, vote caging, vote purging, long lines, machine malfunctions, or improper denial of provisional ballots.

As an idealistic young American who will soon inherit the plethora of challenges our nation faces, I believe that in spite of our various political affiliations, we cannot stand for this any longer. If we do not have a transparent, accessible, and participatory democracy, then we cannot move forward as a country--regardless of who wins on November 4th.