Vote for me, or not at all

Published 8:52 am Friday, August 31, 2018

It is easy to imagine that those running for political office seek to win your vote. But that really would be just your imagination at work.

In the sophisticated world of voting technology, our political parties really only want you to vote if you vote for their party candidate, and they are willing do to almost anything to ensure you comply.

For starters, Republicans tend to want fewer voters at the polls than Democrats because Democrats hold an edge in registered voters, 48 to 44 percent, according to recent Pew Research reporting.

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And both parties seem happy that making voter registration an individual responsibility, rather than an automatic registration program, is acceptable, even if our voter participation rate is lower than most developed countries at a whopping 57 percent (even lower in midterm elections). We rank a dismal 26th of 32 compared nations in voter turnout.

There are many reasons why we are so successful in keeping voters from the ballot box.

One notable reason is that campaigns are often designed to turn off all but the most partisan voters by the vitriol spewed by the candidates. By the time the election day arrives, many of us dislike all the candidates.

But there are more insidious methods deployed to prevent unwanted voters from showing up on Election Day, stealth methods wrapped in false integrity claims.

One of the more popular methods is to simply reduce the number of voting booths in districts who might not vote for your candidate. Long lines and long waits to vote are effective in reducing turnout and votes.

If that alone does not seem to help enough, you may want your party to close voting locations in “enemy” districts. Imagine your local polling place is closed and the nearest polling location is now a 45-minute drive away. If you do not drive, you may simply give up on voting. If you work until 5 p.m., get off work and drive 45 minutes to the new polling location, only to find a line an hour long, you too may give up.

Then there is the best method to reduce working class voters, that is to reduce early voting, originally designed so those with little time on the first Tuesday in November can vote in advance. Ohio uses this method to hold down the vote.

Several states have discovered a stealth method that seems to work well; on provisional and absentee ballots, make execution of the ballot so precise that any minor infraction of voting etiquette invalidates the ballot. Apply this demanding standard only in districts with heavy levels of opposition voters, and opposition votes can be discounted.

Recently, Republicans have found richness in slowing voters down by creating new voter ID requirements, impacting voters of color more than any other voter. This method solves the non-existent problem of voter fraud at the ballot box.

Republicans have also excelled at the newest method of getting rid of nasty opposition voters by purging voter rolls of the unwanted categories of voter. In this scenario, you show up at the poll only to find that because your name was spelled exactly like another voter’s name, you have been disqualified.

While all of these are great ways of minimizing unwanted voters, nothing matches the gerrymandering method. Mastered best in our Southern states, Republicans have packed Democrats into a few voting districts where Democrats win, but made many more districts stacked for Republicans. In Ohio, where the parties’ split voting mostly 50/50, 11 of 16 congressional seats go to Republicans using this method.

The Courts are reversing some of these “voter picking” strategies, but not all, and not fast enough.

The best choice you have is to fight to vote in 2018, no matter what it takes.


Jim Crawford is a retired educator, political enthusiast and award-winning columnist living here in the Tri-State.