the days after midterm election day, November 6, 2018, you could not
turn on a television or even have a conversation without hearing
about aspects of voter suppression, voting irregularities, or merely
extreme voting inconvenience. The lines were long, according to most
reports, with too few voting booths at too many places. I waited
forty-five minutes in the rain and watched several people walk away
in frustration, or because they had to get to work. My wait was
short compared to those who said they waited hours in line because
their polling place had too few voting booths or nonworking voting
booths. At Morehouse College in Atlanta, polls stayed open until 10
p.m. because the polling station ran out of paper ballots. The
voting space near Clark Atlanta University had mostly nonworking
voting booths until 5 p.m. when new ones were delivered. At a
Michigan polling place, the poll workers and voters were on time, but
voting booths were locked in a closet no one had access to!
was nothing but shenanigans, with "Secretary of State"
Brian Kemp manipulating voter registration and more as soon as he
realized that the amazing Stacey Abrams was a formidable candidate.
He seems to have targeted African American voters with the voter
registrations he did not accept because of trivial "exact match"
law. Of 53,000 registrations denied, it was estimated that 80
percent were African American.
has been a mess since 2000, and while Governor Rick Scott (R) is
complaining now, he could have done lots of things to ensure a clean
vote, including providing more resources for voting operations in the
state's most populous counties, Miami Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach
Counties. All of these had challenges getting recounts submitted on
time, and because Broward County submitted their results a scant two
minutes late, their recount (which includes absentee, military, and
other ballots) will not be added to vote totals. Instead, their
original voter count will stand. We don't know how many additional
votes have been disregarded, but we must understand that with
additional resources, Broward might have submitted on time.
have to be better this! While our "democracy" is weighed
against people who live on the margins, who don't have driver's
licenses, who don't vote regularly, who move frequently, we ought to
be focused on ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to vote.
Other countries do it almost effortlessly. In South African, the
polls are open for three days, and these days are national holidays
with most businesses and schools closed. An indelible hand stamp
allows everyone to vote and prevents fraud. Why can't we do the same
things in these United States?
As we move toward the 2020 election,
many Democrats are focused on who ought to be their choice of a
Presidential candidate. They might be better served if they focused
on the laws that make it difficult for people to vote, ranging from
laws that allow Secretaries of State to purge the voting rolls, laws
that make registering difficult, and more. Who determines what hours
polls are open? Why not 24 hours instead of the scant 12 or 13
(usually 7am to 8 pm) presently available? Why not allow people to
vote over two or three days?
The 2013 Supreme Court decision in
the Shelby case allowed some targeted jurisdictions (mostly, but not
exclusively in the South) to make changes in voting rules without
clearing them with the Justice Department. Sections 4(b) and 5 of
the Voting Rights Act prohibited changes that adjusting voting
districts or taking other acts to disadvantage part of the voting
population. In response to the changes in the Voting Rights Act,
dozens of states passed voter suppression laws, requiring more voter
ID, restricting the student right to vote where they matriculate, and
more. The 116th Congress that will be seated in January 2019 ought
to deal with voting rights and voter access as their first order of
Whoever is selected as Speaker of
the House, be it Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi or another leader must
convene hearings to catalog the many voting irregularities that took
place during this election. The Speaker must work with organizations
like the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights, the NAACP, and others,
to draft omnibus legislation that deals with the many aspects of
voter suppression that were experienced in 2018. The Congress must
appropriate enough funds to provide jurisdictions with working
polling booths and enough poll workers. And the Justice Department
must observe elections, especially in places like Florida, for
We send poll watchers all over the
world to ensure that elections are fair. Why don't we have a
national poll-watchers corps to review ballots here at home? The
reports of irregularities are staggering. Voter manipulation is an
issue that must be addressed.
Former DNC Chairman Donna Brazile
has called for restoring Section Five of the Voting Rights Act, but
that's not enough! The entire voting enterprise needs to be
comprehensively examined, and the possibility of voter suppression
needs to be drastically reduced. And, to be sure, Republicans will
start talking about nearly non-existent voter fraud. We can
investigate so-called fraud, as well. But if Democrats want free and
fair elections, they need to make them a legislative priority. If
they fail to address this issue, they don't deserve to win the
Presidency in 2020!