Another Country

One of the most disheartening aspects of the 2018 election cycle has been a coordinated, deliberate effort to take the vote away from hundreds of thousands of United States citizens. 

Varied schemes have been the work of state and local Republicans bent on victory at all costs. Depending on where, officeholders have eagerly sought to suppress turnout, obfuscate deadlines, and outright disenfranchise fellow Americans along racial divides, mostly because they tend to vote Democratic. 

It is appalling that so many Republicans who believe themselves to be of good conscience are willing to countenance what could create lasting damage to democracy. If there is one issue that should unify the nation, it should be the right to participate in selecting leaders. This failure should be a source of shame.

The effort to suppress votes can be as obvious as limiting the number of polling places or curtailing their hours. The difference between majority white and majority black or Hispanic election districts can make the latter seem like another country. On the South Fork, voters might wait for a few minutes at most to fill out their ballots. However, in 2016, hours-long lines greeted would-be voters in Arizona, North Carolina, and Ohio, among other places, and are expected again this year.

Examples are numerous and horrifying. There have been registered-voter purges, in some cases simply because someone has sat out a couple of elections. Individual registrations in Georgia have been rejected for as little as a missing hyphen in a last name. In one county, officials ordered black senior citizens out of a bus that was to have taken them to an early voting site.

In Alabama, hundreds of thousands of people who remain eligible to vote despite a low felony conviction remain unregistered because of a welter of county-by-county policies and confusing laws. Kansas tried requiring citizenship documents of new registrants, which the American Civil Liberties Union said improperly blocked 35,0000 United States citizens from casting ballots. After a federal judge halted it, the state took another tack: shutting down polling places in minority areas. 

North Carolina has made it all but necessary for hourly workers to skip work in order to take part in early voting. It also eliminated Sunday voting, which traditionally was popular with black voters. North Dakota recently changed its law to require street addresses on the IDs it requires for voting; many Indian reservations in the state do not use street addresses, and under the law post office boxes are not considered adequate. In Tennessee, applications to register have been rejected because an applicant did not check a “Miss,” “Mrs.,” or “Mr.” box. 

No national Republican figure has denounced the strategy to keep black voters in the South or Democratic-leaning college students elsewhere from participating via absentee ballots. At every level, including at the Suffolk Board of Elections, it is shocking that officials and candidates can remain loyal to a party that has so completely collapsed on the most American of American values — the right to vote. The silence of fair-minded Republicans now is the saddest note of all.