Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Volunteering In the 2008 Election

According to their website People for the American Way is an energetic advocate for the values and institutions that sustain a diverse democratic society. The above-mentioned organization published an article titled The New Face of Jim Crow: Voter Suppressions in America. The author of the article argues that long lines and inequality in resource distribution has caused voter suppression in America.

The article states in part: “Long lines at the polls constitute a form of voter suppression because they can compel eligible voters to give up on waiting or discourage people from even showing up at the polls. The problem is usually caused by an inadequate number of voting booths, faulty voting equipment, a lack of poll workers, or poorly trained poll workers who are not able to move voters through the process efficiently.

While long lines can suppress the vote in any precinct, evidence indicates that such lines often form at polling places that are frequented by students, people of color, and low-income voters who often do not have the time or the resources to wait many hours. Some work more than one job, have trouble obtaining permission to vote from employers, or must meet child-care deadlines. These are often the precincts, which receive the fewest resources for voting equipment, poll workers and poll worker training.

In the 2004 election, many voters waited in lines for well over an hour before casting their ballots.[33] And in some places, the lines were much longer—for example, there were reports of five- and even ten-hour long lines at some precincts in Ohio.[34] Even the most dedicated citizens cannot typically spend five or ten hours to cast a vote. People For the American Way Foundation worked with a number of other civil rights and public interest organizations to implement the Election Protection (EP) program in 17 states during the 2004 election. EP poll monitors received numerous complaints of long lines at polling places around the country.

In its post-election report titled “Shattering the Myth,”[35] the Election Protection coalition summarized the numerous complaints it had received.

The solution to the problem of unequal resource allocation is obvious, requiring a fundamental commitment to democracy. To be fair, and to ensure that some groups of voters aren’t given preference over others, states should implement uniform poll worker training, adequate poll worker recruitment, and sufficient numbers of voting machines and voting booths in each precinct where voting will take place.”

During the 2004 election, I worked at my polling place in the Newport News, VA. I volunteered to work on election day because I felt the urgency to take action. We all know that once again the Democrats came up short.

I like many of you watched in disbelief as our people waited in long lines that stretched around the block in many polling places in Florida and Ohio during the 2004 elections. Was it just a coincidence that vote count in Ohio was the deciding factor in the 2004 election?

If the two primary elections in Iowa and New Hampshire are an indication of future voter turnouts we may face major problems in the remaining primaries and in the general election. According to Keith Olbermann of MSNBC voter turnout for the Iowa Caucuses was ninety-seven percent higher than the turnout in 2004. Polling workers in New Hampshire had to requested additional ballots because of the unprecedented voter participation.

As a people we have worked very hard and have voted in record numbers in the last two presidential elections. We should commend ourselves for our great efforts. During both of those elections television broadcasts showed us waiting in long lines in order to vote.

It is my belief that we should seek out ways to prevent a repeat of the long lines in the prior presidential elections. One of the things we can do right now is to call our cities or towns Registrant's offices to inquire about volunteering at local polling area for the 2008 election.
As a country we need to address the issue of unequal resource allocation during the voting process. We should investigate and correct this issue now in order that every American wishing to exercise his or her right to vote will indeed have that opportunity.

We have seen the recent political unrest in Pakistan and Kenya. We do not want the same type of election turmoil, confusion and strife that is currently the reality of those two countries.

It is my hope and prayer that Americans will have the heart, mind, and courage to expect and demand an orderly, fair, and impartial political process during this historic election year. As a country we need to address and correct voting problems and issues to insure the integrity of the election process.

Addressing the problem of unequal resource allocation and implementing the solutions offered by the People for The American Way would be a great place to start.
Vera Richardson is the author of “A Case of Racial Discrimination and Retaliation Real or Imagined."


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