Back to All Migrated Pages

Securing The Right To Vote, And Making It Count


By Laurence W. Britt The First Amendment establishes, among other things, the concept of freedom of expression. One of its most basic components is the right to vote, and the assurance that your vote will count. The last two presidential elections have brought the issue of voting rights and voting irregularities to the fore­front of our political process. The upcoming election is sure to bring more attention to the issue. What can be more fundamental to a democracy and civil liberties than the fairness of elections? The 2000 Florida election fiasco brought us The Help America Vote Act (HAVA), passed in 2002. If anything, the law has made the situation worse, perhaps much worse. In 2004, voting irregularities spread to Ohio and several other states, and HAVA did not help. ABC News exit polls taken after the 2004 presidential election revealed that John Kerry won Ohio, Florida, New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada and Iowa. In the final count, all went to Bush. Lewis Lapham wrote in Harper’s magazine that, on a national level, Kerry was ahead by 3 percent in exit polls, but lost by 3 percent — a 6 percent swing that seems statistically impossible. The discrep­ancies occurred almost exclusively where electronic voting machines were used. Yet, the mainstream media assumed the exit polling was wrong, and did not consider that the final results could be wrong. Those who expressed such thoughts were brushed aside as conspiracy theorists. Rolling Stone did an exhaustive study of the Ohio election and uncovered disturbing irregularities — 106,000 votes were uncounted because they did not show a choice for president. Those votes were not inspected to see why a choice was not made; most were in strong Kerry precincts. Reported turnouts in many Ohio precincts were impossible. In Republican-leaning Perry County, several precincts reported turnouts of more than 100 percent. In many other areas, turnouts of 95-98 percent were reported, about 30-40 percent above normal. In areas of Cleveland, where Kerry expected strong support, the turnout officially was between 7 and 20 percent. In the same areas, observers noted large crowds trying to use an inadequate number of voting machines. HAVA is not living up to its billing, which is to help Americans vote. To make matters worse, deficiencies are being overlooked in all of the noise about voter registration fraud. The states and the federal government have found and prosecuted a minuscule number of actual cases of fraud. The real problem is not voter fraud, but election fraud — the suppression of voters, either before or during, the elec­tion, targeting the opposition voting population and eliminating as much as possible its voice. As November approaches, such activities are plainly evident. The voter photo ID requirement in several states is clearly aimed at suppressing poor or elderly voters who may not have drivers’ licenses. The mass purging of reg­istration rolls in several states for spurious reasons will lead to many voters losing a vote or casting provisional votes that probably will not be counted. New registrations will be challenged for any number of bogus reasons in order to suppress voting. The Ohio Republican party is taking a case to the U.S. Supreme Court to throw out 200,000 new registrations because of a minor issue. The party argues it is fighting massive voter fraud. If it prevails, effectively the votes of 200,000 persons in a swing state will be eliminated — an outcome that represents election fraud. Last year, we learned the attorney general fired several U.S. attorneys because they were not pursuing voter fraud cases aggressively enough. In truth, they could not do so because most of the cases were bogus. Still, the impression remains that cases do exist, an impression that supports policies to suppress the vote. Until we have legislation and procedures that really “help America vote,” our democracy will not be complete.

As bold as the spirit of New York, we are the NYCLU.
© 2024 New York
Civil Liberties Union