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Thinking Out Loud from Wisdom Voices

Voting: Register, Actually Vote & Stay Alert

We should be doing everything possible to make it easier for people to participate in the political process. If we believe in a vibrant democracy, we must have the highest voter turnout in the world.”
--Sen. Bernie Sanders


In honor of National Voter Registration Day, we thought it an appropriate time to revisit one of our recurring themes on which we focus here at Wisdom Voices Press. Voting and voting rights is the foundation of any democracy. Jeopardize the right to vote, or forget that you have an obligation to vote and democracy is in grave danger. So there’s no time like today to dig in and look at where voting and how we vote stands a year before our next national elections and to encourage every eligible voter in the country to register to vote and then to remember to vote. And to fight back against anyone who would deny eligible voters the chance to vote or manipulate the avenues on how eligible voters vote.
In 2015, we continue to fight voter suppression laws, and work to ensure transparency on how we vote. We also remain concerned about the apathy of eligible voters. All are direct threats to our democracy.
We’ll set aside (for the moment) the fact that we “outsource” our voting to companies who provide us electronic voting machines. We’ll also set aside the fact (for now) on how easy it is to hack said voting machines. For now, let’s just take a look at the antiquity of the current electronic voting machines.
The Brennan Center For Justice — one of the best sources on voting and voting rights — recently warned us of the impending crisis with aging voting technology in a recent article. Unlike voting machines used in past eras, they tell us, today’s systems were not designed to last for decades. In part this is due to the pace of technological change. No one expects a laptop to last 10 years. And although today’s machines debuted at the beginning of this century, many were designed and engineered in the 1990s.  Remember Ohio in 2004? Who will pay for the new machines? When?  And where do most of the outdated machines reside? In swing states, of course.
And the “magic” of touch screen voting? (If you’ve ever voted on a machine like that have you wondered just where does your vote go?)  As noted in the Brennan Center article: “The problem of faulty machines is much more serious in jurisdictions that use what are known as Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) machines. These are machines on which voters use interfaces (pushbutton, touchscreen, or dial) to record their votes. If a machine breaks down, voting is interrupted and voters must wait until a machine is repaired or replaced. Jurisdictions in 22 states use DRE machines.”
Then there’s always voter suppression masquerading as “voter ID.” A federal appeals court recently declared that Texas’ strict 2011 voter ID law has a “discriminatory effect” on minorities and violates the Voting Rights Act. But the three-judge panel's unanimous, 49-page decision also overturned a lower court's previous assertion that the law amounted to an unconstitutional “poll tax.”  For more on how the battle in Texas to overturn these new 21st century Jim Crow laws click here. North Carolina and Wisconsin are two other states who have implemented harsh voter ID laws designed to keep eligible voters away.
And what about voter transparency?  See what happens when a Wichita State mathematician asks the Kansas Secretary of State, Kris Kobach, for hard copies of voting records to check what she called “troubling statistical anomalies” in recent Kansas voting patterns. Off to court they go. Ah, those pesky “open records” laws. 
Remember when the Supreme Court gutted Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act two years ago? Outcries came immediately for Congress to “fix” the problem (why do we have to fix something that was never broken?). Here’s an update on how that slog through Congress is going. Julian Bond, the great civil rights activist who recently died, was quoted as saying as we neared the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act this summer, “We’re celebrating the anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, without the Voting Rights Act.”
On the “good news” front:  California, following on the heels of Oregon’s automatic voter registration, is poised to follow suit.  Oregon’s law will register all adult citizens in the DMV's database, while California’s bill would be implemented more gradually, as people get or renew their licenses or state IDs, or change their addresses. But both make it the government's responsibility to ensure that all eligible voters are registered. If you are eligible to vote, you should be able to vote.

Register To Vote & Then Remember To Vote

In our last national election, nearly 66 percent of eligible voters chose not to cast ballots. That statistic should send shivers down everyone’s spine. There’s no doubt that negative campaign ads are designed to discourage voters and keep them away from the polls. There are also people who feel as though a two-party system is wrong and what difference does it make who they vote for so they chose not to participate. We also wonder sometimes that with the lack of civics classes taught these days, if many people now think that hitting “like” on Facebook for a particular candidate means their “voting” duties are done.
Our local community held a primary last month for its mayor’s race. Less than four percent of eligible voters turned out. That is not how democracy is supposed to work. Anything of value has a price tag attached to it. If we value our democracy, the work of voting needs to be part of what we do to maintain and ensure its viability.


Voting Resources

Remember to check with your Secretary of State’s web site to find out specific information on how you register to vote.
Read Ari Berman’s new book, “Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America.”  And do as Harvey J. Kaye, Professor of Democracy and Justice Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, reminds us in his review of Berman’s book: Vote in 2016 as if our vote depended on it!
Subscribe to, read, and support There simply is no better watchdog on what’s happening with voting and the attempts to deny people the right to vote than Brad Friedman. Click here to find out more.
The Brennan Center For Justice, who we quoted extensively in this newsletter, remains a solid source for voting information. Click here to find out more about their Voting Rights & Elections issues page.
The Advancement Project should be another bookmarked site. Here’s a link to their Voter Protection section.
Vote. Do you have 2015 local and state elections? Do you know where your polling place is? Do you know if you are a caucus state or a primary state? Do you know the difference? Educated, informed voters…the foundation of a great democracy. Make sure you are part of it.


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Thinking Out Loud: September 2015

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