- Politics and Social Issues
Jim Crow is Alive & Well and Living on the Eastside of Indianapolis
http://keithmitchell5.hubpages.com/hub/Frustropolis ...Related piece: please read:.
Jim Crow is indeed alive and well and living on the eastside of Indianapolis, currently disguised a Republican precinct worker.
In 2005, the state of Indiana passed a voter ID law, requiring voters to show ID - basically produce a driver's license - to vote. (Let's face it, if a person doesn't hold a driver's license, the chances that they'll possess a US passport or military ID are slim to none. The fourth option allowed under the law - in certain circumstances only - is a valid student ID from a publicly-funded Indiana college.
So, on election day I walked into my polling place, the Lutheran church at 21st & Franklin Road, waiting to vote for mayor. The septuagenarian clerks were taking their time signing voters in. One is good-naturedly questioning the man in front of me, who has produced a valid driver's license and whose corresponding name is listed on their rolls as an eligible voter. He's voted at this precinct before. But guess what? He's a black male. Looks like Steve Urkel's dad in fact, with some short dreadlocks and a goofy-happy demeanor. I shift from waiting impatiently to vote to being outraged, as I sense what is happening. The nice, friendly Republican clerk asks Papa Urkel if the address on his license is still correct and he says no, that he moved a mile and a half away last year. This man should be voting, but our erstwhile GOP precinct clerk knows all too well that a black person is almost certainly going to be voting Democratic, and she can't have that. She calls the "sheriff" over - the lead official at the polling place, a pear-shaped white guy who tells Urkel's dad that "We'll have to call to find out where you can vote." Complete bullshit. If his name is on the rolls at our precinct, any fool knows it won't be on the rolls anywhere else. That would be voter fraud and the precinct officials know it but pleasantly, with smiles and soothing tones, send this man on a goose chase to another precinct where "he may be able to vote," as the clerk now qualifies. I see Pops Urkel in the parking lot with his partner. She is white and guess what? She had voted at the same precinct earlier in the day, unasked about the address on her license, she tells me. I say to Urkel, "What a load of shit, man. You should have demanded to vote." He's smiling, a pleasant guy. His only mistake inside was being honest about having moved a few blocks away. "I might go to that other precinct, but we have to pick up our kids first." I check my phone and the time is 5:14 pm. In Indiana, the polls close at 6 p.m. and he has to go get his kids. Phantom precinct wild goose chase. He isn't voting.
* * *
The same clerk asked me if my address had changed. (An unkempt, surly white guy with long hair wearing a Butthole Surfers t-shirt also struck the GOP clerk as "non-Republican material," apparently.) I had also moved but I lied to them about it and I voted. The license ID as a requirement to vote is a 21st century version of the Poll Tax. Calmly, with smiles, and serenity, poll workers explain to the confused, frustrated potential voters that the good eggs at the "other precinct" will let them vote there. Not. Neither was this some rogue action by an egregiously partisan clerk, either. This law was designed to be "enforced" in this manner by its sponsors.
Typically, I don't have much use for either major party, but I absolutely abhor the Republican ethos. I'll give them credit where it's due, though - they play for keeps. They play to win at all costs, and they often do. The Democrats don't have it together quite as well.
Rock the Vote
When I was an undergraduate and a member of ISU's "Young Democrats Club," I disobeyed an order only to register voters who claimed to support Democratic candidates.My rationale was, anyone who wants to vote should vote and if the Democratic Party offer candidates and ideas that are worth a damn, they'll win and if not, they don't deserve to.
GOP in Indiana
The voter ID law was passed by a GOP-controlled assembly against loud Democratic opposition. The Republicans say the law is necessary to prevent fraud. The Democrats say it's designed to keep poor people - a traditional Democratic constituency - from voting. A local Indiana court struck down the law in 2008 as unconstitutional, but the Indiana State Supreme Court reversed that in 2010, allowing the law to stand. It's a fallacy to say that the government here wants us all to vote. There are so many facts that expose the hypocrisy beyond that claim. Holding elections on a work day, from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.? Brilliant idea - very convenient to working/ parenting adults. How about geographically fixed polling places? If you're going to have voter ID required, why does it matter where we show up to vote? The onus on preventing voter fraud should never fall on the voter - as it does with this ID law - but instead on the government. This is how it works in Japan, Canada, Australia, and Western Europe. The government automatically registers people to vote - as citizens they are registered, no needless hoops. Elections are held on weekends generally. If not (as in UK, which holds elections on Thursdays), polls are open for a 24-hour span, from midnight to midnight, to allow even the busiest adult a voting window. Voting is predictably mechanized and uniform; technology is used as the means to prevent fraud. Here, elections aren't "federalized," meaning the US has no uniform standards regarding voting procedures including registration, which varies greatly from state to state. The Id law is just the most obviously pernicious final layer to prevent citizens from exercising their civic right. And this a key point: supporters of the voter ID law claimed that voting was a "privilege," apparently a privilege they feel is theirs to dole out. Voting isn't a privilege. It's an inherent right that should only be forfeited in the most severe of circumstances - say current incarceration or acute mental illness. Certainly not because one's address has changed since the last voting cycle or indeed, because they lack identification period.
It's Worked Before So Do It Again
In 2004, GOP supporters in Columbus, Ohio, and Las Vegas used the same tactic to help narrowly deliver their respective states for Bush over Kerry. It went like this: On official-looking state-sealed letterheads, a notice was circulated through poor black and Latino sections of each town that read in part, "Due to expected heavy voter turnout and in effort to avoid long waits at the polling place, it is suggested that voters follow the following guidelines: Republican voters should vote on Tuesday and Democratic voters should vote on Wednesday." The form was printed on high quality paper in color, signed, stamped, and looked very official. And they worked. A lot of people were snookered into not voting. Or at least into trying to vote a day after the election was over. Now you can say "stupid people shouldn't vote, and if they're gullible enough to be tricked out of their voting rights, then so be it." And I might counter with, "the right to vote is fundamental in this country, and no smug, pernicious tactics can be justified in suppressing it."
Ex-felons Need Not Vote
In fourteen states, mostly across the Republican South, convicted felons lose the right to vote for the rest of their lives. Even after they're released, paroled, have paid their debt to society, they can never, ever vote again. If Michael Vick, for example, had been convicted of gambling on dog fighting in Alabama, he could still be an NFL quarterback upon release from prison, but he could never again help decide his state and federal leaders.
I hope Urkel's dad gets angry about the farce he endured between now and the next election. Voting isn't a shell game, and "winning ugly" isn't a sustainable way for either major party to perpetuate a functioning democracy. And if neither major party can be entrusted to run this deal above board, it's high time for a third option that doesn't resort to subverting democracy to achieve its aims.