Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Dirty Tricks Squad

Looks like it's out in full force today.

This is what has really bothered me about all the screaming and warbling that's been done about ACORN and other registration drives. The real, great threat to our democracy lies not in efforts to get more people to vote but in the actual efforts out there to prevent people from actually voting. Whether it's misinforming people about the date with a wry chuckle. Or whether it's about the temporal poll tax of long waiting lines and crowded polling places. It's all about depressing turnout. Or, in other words, making sure people don't vote. Which should be reprehensible but because it's done by political campaigns and government officials, it's just the way the game is operated instead of a deplorable shame.

But it's out there and, more than anything, the people who perpetrate it fear revealing just how deep it goes.

I'm reminded, today, of the what happened in my own home state of Michigan where there was a report that the Republican party was going to try to use foreclosure lists to purge the voting records. After all, if there's a region of the country that's been harder hit with more people losing their jobs and their homes then I shudder to think of it – the national economy is bad but the Michigan economy is even worse with no signs of getting any better soon (Mostly because it's so tied to the auto industry and the American automakers tied their fortunes to the SUV boom rather than working to develop cheap, affordable, efficient cards, and made gas guzzling engines with a lot of horsepower rather than creating new fuel technologies that could be spurring thousand of new jobs and... you know what? I'm just going to stop because it makes me too damn mad.). Because, of course, if you didn't have a house then you weren't a resident and if you weren't a resident then you couldn't vote.

The Michigan Republican Party denied this report up and down for several news cycles, even going so far as to sue the Michigan Messenger in open court. Only to wind up quietly withdrawing that suit days later, weeks in advance of the election. The reason? Partly, I'd think, so that it didn't become an issue by the time of the election with story after story being written about the results or the courtroom fights. But also partly because going forward would have meant going to trial. And trial means discovery. The Republican Party would have had to turn over any documents and memos in its possession about such voter suppression to the plaintiff. Enter, no doubt, a wealth of information into the public record. That's something that the party elders just couldn't allow so they quietly put a halt to the proceedings and scuttled any lawsuit and, with it, a chance for the public to see just what they've been up to for years.

Part of their agreement, though, included the acknowledgement by the Michigan Republic Party that they were, in fact, planning to use such foreclosure lists even though they vehemently deny it to this day.

So, this stuff is out there. And it's hidden. But there really is a conscious effort to deny people their right to vote. Like so many things the conservatives have done in democracy's name, it just shouldn't happen in America. That's why, more than ever, it's important to make sure to get out there and that every vote is actually counted.

Whether it's by national ID or the increased trend towards early or absentee, voting will continue to become easier and more available. The tide is against those who want to keep a portion of the electorate away from the polls and it's going to wash over such futile efforts today. But it doesn't mean attention shouldn't be paid. Because if what these people fear more than anything is being revealed then it's time to bring them out into the open and make them face the cold, cool light of day.

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