Friday, October 31, 2014

What Happens If You Have a Problem Voting?

Posted By on Fri, Oct 31, 2014 at 12:00 PM

I must provide an explanatory disclaimer for this column. It was written in a fugue state triggered by a relentless onslaught of campaign ads, eyes locked in a fixed stare, eerie music in the background, and visions of dark hordes of American-hating terrorists rolling into my carport and opening fire on the laundry room with shoulder-launched rockets. At election time, reality becomes elusive, and words don’t always mean what they say. Oh yeah, and electoral commentary laws require me to include this bit: “I’m Randy Serraglio, and I approve this column.”

This year’s electoral trouble started on primary day, which happened to be my birthday. I thought, Gee, isn’t this great—the gift of democracy—what could be better? Then I choked down the rest of my scotch and tottered over to the polling place….

Wait—did I say “scotch”? I’m sorry, I must have misspoken, or mistyped, or mis-something. I meant “orange juice.” I was definitely drinking OJ that day. Those words sound very similar, so I can see why you might have misinterpreted my position on this issue. Also, that statement was taken out of context—I was probably discussing the butterscotch scone I may have eaten that day. You see, “scotch” without the “butter” means something very different, doesn’t it? No worries, it’s a totally understandable mistake. Yes, clearly it was “milk” that I meant to say all along, because milk makes America strong.

Anyway, at the polling place—fortified by hormone-infused, antibiotic-saturated, bio-engineered, pesticide-flavored, profoundly-unhealthy-but-totally-feel-good all-American animal snot, but not at all under the influence of anything to do with Scotland, or Kentucky, or fermented grains of any kind, other than the ones that rotted in the cow’s stomach—I enthusiastically embraced my duty as a citizen of a democratic society and created the customary troublesome scene.

It’s a consistent pattern: I show my voter identification card and the neon yellow postcard that guides me to the correct voting location, and they tell me I must show a photo ID to vote. Well versed in the law, and not misled or hopelessly confused by the sort of training that results in widespread ignorance of the law among poll workers, I say “No, I don’t need a photo ID to vote.” They insist I do, usually with substantial doses of condescension and suspicion. We go back and forth until I flip over the postcard and point to the truth, right there in neon yellow, which lists a wide range of identification options, at the very bottom of which appear my choices: “voter ID card” and “piece of official election mail.” I firmly repeat, “This is official election mail. This is sufficient ID under the law.”

This time they gave in, but sometimes they continue to argue, which then requires intervention by whoever happens to be managing the polling place at that moment. Inasmuch as voter identification fraud is virtually nonexistent in our country, I daresay the law works better than the bogus poll worker training, but surely the wizards in the elections department must have a good reason for misinforming so many well intentioned poll workers.

The problems I encounter every time I vote may result from simple ignorance and bad training, or they may be fallout from the nationwide push by the Republican Party to attack the chimera of voter fraud, which translates to “suppress turnout among poor, young and minority voters who generally vote for Democrats.” I doubt that it’s a coincidence that my polling place is in an economically depressed section of the south side of town with a majority Latino demographic.

As conspiracies go, this one is pretty transparent. Republicans screw over poor, young and minority citizens at every available opportunity because when those people lose, old rich white guys win and get even richer. Even in these very confused times, two plus two still equals four (for the winners, zero for the losers).

In Ohio, Wisconsin, Georgia, North Carolina, Texas, here in Arizona, and in many other places Republican lawmakers and election officials are endeavoring to implement a diverse array of obstacles to poor, young and minority voters, including cumbersome (and totally unnecessary) ID requirements. The non-partisan Government Accountability Office recently determined that such obstacles disproportionately suppress turnout among young and minority voters, which is not surprising, since that’s exactly what they’re intended to do.

To learn more about this cynical attack on one of the most fundamental of our civil rights, go to http://www.866ourvote.org/ or call (800) OUR-VOTE if you have problems voting. To fight back, sign up as an Election Protection volunteer on the Arizona Advocacy Network web site at bit.ly/AZVoterProtection or call Abby Okrent in Tucson at abby.okrent@gmail.com.

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