The elective franchise, if guarded as the ark of our safety, will peaceably dissipate all combinations to subvert a Constitution, dictated by the wisdom, and resting on the will of the people.The polls look great for President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, and there was much rejoicing. However, as anyone reflective must acknowledge, there has never been a single President of the United States elected by a poll, or a pollster all by his lonesome. Such a herculean undertaking requires millions of Americans to come together, as is required constitutionally, on the first Tuesday of every fourth November.
This year, that day—Election Day—is now again upon us.
So, it is time for us to vote.
This year, however, much as the polls showing that our favored candidate, our beloved-even-when-he-pisses-us-off President, is in the lead uplift us and inspire us to vote ourselves, more is required than the minimum of simply casting our own ballots. We must do what we can to make sure that the inspiration felt by others is just as effectuated as our own, at the ballot box.
That means that we must take steps, as citizens, to ensure that none of our neighbors are disenfranchised, by circumstance or design.
By any means necessary, if we do not wish to confront one day the choice between the ballot, or the bullet.
So many diaries have been written exhorting people to get out the vote that it is impossible to link to them all, or quote them all. In the end, it should not be necessary. We all know what we need to do with our own personal votes, where, and when (and, if you don't, please keep reading so you can get information about how to find out!)
I'm therefore not going to just repeat what we all know we must do not; to wit, "Get out the Vote." Far better writers than I have done that, and will keep doing that right up until the end.
Instead, I'm going to urge you to make sure that everyone (neighbors, friends and family, Romans and country(wo)men), gets to vote right along with you.
I am asking you to, after your own vote is cast, help clear the voter road behind you.
That's no accident, if you ask me.
Which is why progressives bear the unfair burden, the duty, to stand not just for the re-election of our President, but also stand against the machinery of the right wing that hopes to make electing people like our President to national office as hard as possible going forward. As our way of showing our love for country. No matter how fired up and ready to go we are for President Obama, we need to also be fired up and ready to go for the larger principle of voting rights, which have been under relentless attack. We must be champions for the right to vote as the most fundamental of American rights. And we must champion that right, in person, on Election Day itself.
To the extent that there is any doubt about there being a difference in visions for America reflected in how the political partisans are approaching this year's election, that fundamental difference can be summed up thus: those who are working on our side (whether for the President's GOTV effort, or those non-partisan organizations like the League of Women Voters and Election Protection), are mobilizing resources to make sure that everyone who is legally entitled to vote actually gets to cast their vote. The other side of the political aisle? It is inarguable that are not working to help our national voices come together in a truly-fair electoral decision. They are, instead, fighting by hook, crook, cynical exercise of political might, intimidation, lies and obfuscations, to narrow the number of voters in certain demographics as much as possible so that their guys (and gals!) can win office without having first won the hearts and minds of the electorate. Oh, they say that they are trying to "prevent fraud." But the evidence is clear, inarguable to me, that the "fraud" they are allegedly fighting to prevent is mythical, not real. It is a self-serving narrative made up of nothing more than partisan paranoia.
After all, we haven't had a lot of elections decided by Mickey Mouse or Al Capone, lately.
Republicans admit this, pretty much, even without admitting it. The admission comes when you look at what they devote their manpower to, these so-called True the Vote folks and other Republican operatives. The right-wing voter suppression machine is deploying what they claim to be 100,000 people just to make make sure that this does not happen, the counting of "fraudulent votes." Their presence at the polls they choose to occupy is by their own admission to restrict, not increase, the number of voters that can actually cast a ballot if they show up. They are going to be there to make sure that if a voter moved and didn't follow perfectly the technicalities of re-registering in the right precinct, he or she can't vote. To make sure that if a student didn't choose to undertake sacrifice trekking back home rather than voting at school, they can't vote. Making sure that if a Black urban person fears going to jail if he or she shows up to vote (even if whatever wrong that person may have done wrong, assuming anything was done wrong at all other than being born Black has nothing to do with voting.)
There are no True the Vote workers that I've heard of out there working to help voters get things straight with the registrar where there is a mistake if possible, or to vote provisional if possible, despite knowing that federal law goes out of its way to try and preserve even provisional ballots in a federal election as full votes.
Don't believe it yet? Well, take a look at True the Vote's website landing page: do you see a single word on it about HELPING people to vote??????
Hell, these anti-franchise-if-it-ain't-the-right-wing-franchise people have even installed themselves as election officials just to make sure, in some swing states (read: Ohio).
We all know this is because they are terrified of the votes of the majority and what it might mean for their vision of America (stuck sometime in the 19th century, it seems, given what their representatives push when they get in office.) Otherwise, why would the right wing machine, just 3 weeks before the election, fight all the way to the appeals court in Ohio (You know which Ohio I'm talking about—the one that may well decide the election, again, with a conveniently evil assist by the Sixth Circuit) to secure a way to reduce the votes counted—a prohibition against election officials counting provisional ballots votes cast in the wrong precinct where the voter's error was prompted by the poll workers themselves???)
Yet even if the road blocks thrown in the way of the franchise by those who can't find any other way to win the hearts and minds of the majority of the electorate didn't exist at all, though, we still can't forget those of our neighbors who care about what happens to the country, and who want to vote, but for whatever reason can't make it to the polls on Election Day. It's all well and good to say: "They should have voted early/voted by mail." That may be true, but only if one focuses on the ideals of human behavior instead of the reality of human circumstance. For example, this week, those in the states of New York and New Jersey affected by Hurricane Sandy are going to need help voting thanks to something they could not have predicted or avoided. New York normally has neither early voting nor no-excuse absentee voting. New Jersey normally allows for no-excuse absentee voting including at the polls up until the day before the election, but doesn't truly have early voting either. Even if either state had more voter friendly laws, many people simply do not wish to vote absentee (and it is not our job to lecture them about their choice). Those people planned to head to the polls on Election Day, this Tuesday. Mother Nature, dressed in vestments called Sandy, has waylaid those plans, and dramatically impacted the ease of voting for many that hail from the Empire and Garden States. It is our job to help them vote, too.
In states that have been brutally affected by Sandy, we can see in stark relief that all the advance GOTV in the world can't guarantee free exercise of the franchise, when state law conspires with mother nature to throw up road blocks, intended or otherwise. Add that to the active conspiracy of voter suppression that has been written about this past few months in particular, a conspiracy which is not just trying to game this year's election but is playing the long game: to create a permanent machinery restricting the franchise for those not "suitable", and you see what might be the perfect storm.
Given that, it's easy to see why it is so important that we fight back not just with our individual votes, but our collective will that also fights to secure the franchise for our neighbors. Even if we think their votes, even those of our political "enemies", don't matter, especially in "blue states" like New York and New Jersey.
[Even if you're 100% not sure that the voter you're encouraging will vote for your guy, or your gal. It's the franchise itself, the foundation of our nation, that is at stake. And I'd rather look back on President Obama's re-election knowing that we were not as base, as vile, as our political enemies, trying to discourage those we know would vote against our progressive principles from voting, nonetheless. If our side does not take the moral high ground, when it comes to the most sacred right and duty of voting, who will?]
Think of it as an act of defiance, this year in particular, against the machine that would gladly disenfranchise millions in the name of securing power.
So, helping everyone actually vote, not just consider voting, is where we have to start and end. But to do that, we need a volunteer army of citizens, of neighbors and friends, to make sure that nobody is turned away that has the right to cast a ballot in Tuesday's election.
Which is why we all should thank God for Election Protection.
Election Protection was born in the ashes of the conflagration of disenfranchisement that left George W. Bush President of the United States and began a uniquely-debased era in American politics. The outrage that was felt when SCOTUS intervened to stop the count in Florida and hand that state to Dubbya was channeled into laying the foundation for a national effort whose sole mission is this: ensure that every legally-eligible voter who wants to vote can vote, no matter where they are. In keeping with our national principle (or what should be our national principle, anyway) that it is the vote that is sacred, not the person for whom that vote is cast, Election Protection is a non-partisan organization. It does not ask, and does not care about, who a voter wishes to vote for. It cares that the vote is cast, either way.
[Some who cannot see the forest for the trees because they are too emotionally caught up in this election rather than look at the electoral process in America as a whole, might question why helping EVERYONE vote is just as important as helping our partisan friends vote, if what the country wants and needs is for President Obama to win. I don't know President Obama, but I know that he is a scholar of constitutional law and a lawyer (inactive though he may be at present.) I know in my heart that he is good man and politician. And I know that he has tried, however imperfectly, to move this country forward after eight years of the nightmare administration known as the Bush II administration. Thus, I feel comfortable in concluding that President Obama, if asked, would fight to protect the franchise rights of that minority of Americans who will vote against him on Tuesday just as hard as the rights of those who are joyfully going out to vote for him. In that moral example, which admittedly is just my assumption but not a groundless one, we should all follow his likely lead.]
So, how can you help?
First and foremost, by spreading the word.
Locally, spread the word about the accomodations to try and make it easier for those for whom voting might not be their #1 priority right now. Especially in those states now in crisis like New Jersey. Make sure that your Jersey friends know—in advance—about the fact that Jersey is deploying military trucks to serve as substitute polling stations for voters in areas of the state where electric power has not been restored. Make sure folks in New York and New Jersey know—in advance—where they can call or search to find out where to go, if their normal polling place is moved. (Election Protection has full access to all state voting and polling place information!). Make sure they know that they can vote Monday, rather than try to navigate the crazy on Tuesday. Make sure they know the ID requirements (you must show ID to vote in person at the polls in New Jersey). Make sure they know about the extended times for counting absentee ballots that were mailed in on time. Tell them that if they forgot to get their mail-in ballot in the mail, there's still time to walk it in to the polls and it will be counted. Offer to help them get there on Monday, even if it means offering to watch their kids for several hours. Offer to cook dinner so if they get stuck in line at the polling place by 8:00 PM (and make sure they know that if they are in line when their polls would normally close, the polls MUST STAY OPEN until they cast their vote in EVERY STATE. Do what you have to do.
Don't let them give up. Just don't.
Memorize these toll-free numbers, and share them widely:
These phone lines to call to ask questions and report problems were down for a day or so post-Sandy, but they are back up now. Use them, and tell others to use them. Election Protection stands ready not to just to take calls, but to deploy people to problematic locations, to observe, to work with local election officials to get it right. And, yes, to litigate if it comes to that in order to secure the franchise. But we can't help with something that we don't know about.
Even in states which have no state-issued ID requirement AT ALL, partisan volunteers are being trained differently, a tailor-made recipe for confusion and havoc at the polls if ever there was one.
[Of course, Team Romney has its lawyers too, at the ready. Or, at least they say they do (feel free to click on the link)………A scary prospect, given that they can't even get the training of their own volunteers in the law right.]
While Election Protection can and will help (if notified) with all of these types of problems, the truth is that 10,000 volunteers is not enough. Nowhere near enough. Even when added to the partisan voter protection groups working for President Obama's campaign. ALL of us lawyers need to rise to the occasion, and be good Americans, good neighbors, good friends: we need to make sure everyone knows the truth about their voting rights and that they do not turn away discouraged when their right to vote is challenged without basis but instead stay and cast their ballot!
Say something, and tell others to say something! Election Protection's secondary mission is to collect data: to demonstrate the actual impact of all the suppression machine's efforts on real voters, real Americans. Thanks to the partnership with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, software allows EP volunteers manning the phones and mobile volunteer centers to immediately enter data on issues as they arise, and deploy resources to help. If you become aware of a problem at a polling place, phone it in. The downtime between federal elections is used to raise awareness, to lobby for changes to address problems, and if necessary to litigate. It is never too late to report any shenanigans, or even just innocent problems, that you see!
If you have the resources, be a good Samaritan and print out Election Protection's 1-page voter checklist for your state, and hand it out as you canvass door-to-door today and tomorrow along with your partisan materials. Tell people to take the checklist with them to the polls, as a weapon in case even well-meaning polling officials get it wrong. (You can never be too sure!)
Oh, and for those of you who want to help and roll hard with social media at the same time? There's an app for that, thanks to Election Protection. (And there's even a video about the app to take viral in the next 36 hours, thanks to the fine documentarians at Brave New Films) and activists at Cuéntame. There is nothing more powerful than an informed voter with a smartphone!
So: Go out there. GET OUT THE VOTE And CLEAR THE ROAD FOR YOUR NEIGHBOR'S VOTE, TOO!