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Flawed Voting in our Democracy
Why does the Republican Party want the Voting Rights Act to expire?The history of America can be written as an attempt to realize the dream of democracy—but in 2006 America it may still remain only a dream. Republican efforts to suppress the votes of poor minorities is becoming ever more creative and determined—we need only look at the details of the 2000 Florida vote and the 2004 Ohio vote for confirmation.
Mr. Palast’s most recent book, Armed Madhouse, details how votes of African Americans can be challenged in a process referred to as “caging.” Independent analysis of so-called “spoiled” votes in the 2004 election showed that the chances of a black vote being spoiled and not counted (blacks vote 90% democratic) was 500 times more likely than the spoilage of a Latino vote (Latinos vote about 40% Republican). Even the votes of black soldiers serving in Iraq were successfully challenged when they returned to the states. Not having enough voting machines or functioning machines in predominantly black districts and poor neighborhoods, or at liberal colleges; stopping and searching cars with black occupants on the way to the polls; searching the households of blacks for potential voting fraud; not allowing election day to be a holiday or not extending the time for voting or having voting on weekends; not allowing D.C. to have representation in the Senate: all are ways of suppressing the black democratic vote. Gerrymandering and voter picture I.D.s, (many poor blacks don’t drive and may not have picture I.D.s) or some other test of voter eligibility, are more traditional tactics.
If the poor and black do manage to vote, their votes are likelier than not to be recorded on machinery designed to provide such ambiguous results as to be subject to challenge.The GOP elites have never trusted democracy and are luxuriating in their present one-party rule. They will continue to find ways to assure that only “qualified” people vote, just as new loopholes will be created to allow the wealthy to buy votes through bogus campaign finance “reform.” And, if the poor and black do manage to vote, their votes are likelier than not to be recorded on machinery designed to provide such ambiguous results as to be subject to challenge. In 2004, 3 million votes were challenged in the 50 state elections. This is the sorry state of voting patterns in America.
In 2004, 3 million votes were challenged in the 50 state electionsAll these activities mentioned are prohibited under the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and that is why the Republican Congress would like to see the Act expire. Mr. Palast put it this way: When I look over the caging lists and the scrub sheets, it’s clear to me that the GOP has traded in white sheets for spreadsheets.”
J. Russell Tyldesley, an insurance executive, writes from Catonsville, Md.
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This story was published on June 29, 2006.