Republicans believe — for valid statistical and historic reasons — that lower voter turnout increases their odds of success. So they have not been shy about using a variety of means, legal and otherwise, to try to keep voter participation as low as possible.
In Virginia, the state has begun an investigation into the destruction of voter-registration forms by a company that was hired by the state Republican Party. On Sunday, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli sent out an email to his fellow Republicans, celebrating the fact that “when I looked yesterday, so far there are over 357,000 absentee votes cast. That’s barely over 70 percent of the 2008 total. That’s bad for them.”
In Ohio, Secretary of State Jon Husted, also a Republican, had to be forced by federal court order to open early voting to all Ohio citizens. Long voting lines over the weekend in Ohio testified to the importance of that ruling. Husted also had to be forced by court order to count votes that are accidentally cast in the wrong precinct because of poll-worker, not voter, error. Husted was more than willing to just toss those votes aside, stripping those who cast them of their right to be heard.
Furthermore, as the Toledo Blade reports, “Thousands of absentee ballot applications may have been rejected because Mr. Husted’s office did not send 33,000 updated registration records to local election officials until after the deadline for changes.”
The biggest problems, however, are occurring in a state all too familiar with election litigation and controversy. With immensely long lines already apparent throughout the state, Florida Gov. Rick Scott refused to extend early voting opportunities, breaking with the precedent set by his two predecessors in the office, both of whom were Republican. And in what may have been a freelance effort to shut down voting — nobody in an official capacity would ever approve such a stunt — early voting was interrupted Saturday at a Democratic precinct in Winter Park by the discovery of two “suspicious packages,” which had to be destroyed by a bomb disposal unit.
As Andrew Cohen writes in The Atlantic:
” … what is happening this weekend in Florida is simply unacceptable. According to a local election official interviewed by CBS News’ Phil Hirschkorn, the last “early voter” in line for Saturday’s truncated early voting in Palm Beach County finally got to cast a ballot at 2:30 Sunday morning, which means that voter waited in line for more than seven hours. In Miami, another traditional Democratic stronghold, the wait was said to be nearly as long. On Sunday, voters all over the state were begging judges and county officials for more time to vote.
This is happening not because of a natural disaster or a breakdown in machinery. It is happening by partisan design. Alarmed by the strong Democratic turnout in early voting in 2008, Republican lawmakers, including Gov. Rick Scott, reduced the number of early-voting days from 14 to eight….
If Florida’s election officials, and its Republican lawmakers, and its state and federal judges, all were required to stand in line for seven hours to vote, those long lines would go away forever. You know it, I know it, and so do those officials.”
No public official — no American patriot — ought to try to discourage fellow Americans from voting. No political party ought to advance its own prospects by trying to reduce rather than increase participation in the most fundamental rite and right of democratic self-government.
Because if that’s your route to power, you’re doomed to failure in the long term, and you ought to be.
– Jay Bookman