VIEW FROM HERE--Remember the good old days when elections were stolen by political bosses? They followed the time-honored tradition of stuffing ballot boxes with the votes of cemeteries full of people whose political influence extended beyond the grave. In some cases, machine loyalists voted multiplied times. At the end of election day, counting ballots offered opportunities for padding the totals.
In the South, elections were rigged beforehand. Poll taxes and literacy tests ensured that only those of a certain economic and racial class were even allowed to register, let alone cast a ballot.
Half a century ago, the Supreme Court and Congress put an end to the most egregious electoral practices. Since then, politicians and political operatives—particularly Republicans—have become experts in the practice of voter suppression.
Gerrymandering—the drawing of electoral districts to favor candidates of one party—is almost as old as America. GOP control of statehouses in much of the U.S. resulted in heavily gerrymandered Congressional districts that may have cost the Democrats upward of two dozen seats in the House of Representatives. Courts have regularly struck down maps drawn to ensure Republican control. The Supreme Court is now considering a case from Wisconsin that could deal a severe blow to gerrymanders.
Other voter suppression tactics include drastic purges of the voter rolls. The Supreme Court is considering an Ohio case in which the state has canceled the registration of voters who have not participated in recent elections. States removing the names of voters shortly before elections can easily tip the balance in close elections, particularly in presidential contests where low-propensity voters may show up at the polls and discover they won’t be allowed to cast a ballot.
Another way to discourage voters is requiring them to produce identification before allowing them to vote. Some states have become very selective about what qualifies as acceptable proof that voters are the person registered. In some places, a hunting license is acceptable, but a college student I.D. is not. Clearly, these laws are aimed at maintaining the status quo, which usually means the Republicans run the show.
In addition to legal setbacks for the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which protects minority voters, a court recently lifted a 30-year-old consent degree that prevented the Republican party from tactics such as posting off-duty law enforcement officers at the polls to discourage African-American and other minority voters.
Finally, there is the matter of Russian intervention in America elections. This is the most dangerous threat to the integrity of the American electoral process. No one should forget that Vladimir Putin was a KGB officer. He is an expert at disruption and has the whole Russian government at his disposal.
Russia hasn’t just hacked American state and local government election systems. They’ve also gone after a number of Western nations, including Britain and France, attempting to influence election results. So far, Russian hackers have attacked dozens of systems in the U.S., accessing voter data. There’s no evidence they’ve gotten into vote counting systems yet, but no doubt they’re working on it.
In addition to hacking governments’ election sites, the Russians used social media to drive certain points of view. Hiding behind front groups, they exploited Facebook by purchasing advertising and creating phony accounts to sow chaos and divison in the American electorate.
Whether Putin deliberately colluded with the Trump and his campaign is a question that cannot be ignored. The Republicans would love to shut down independent prosecutor Robert Mueller’s investigation and close out any further Congressional oversight. But, doing so is tantamount to guaranteeing continued Russian interference.
This year’s elections will be critical to the future of the United States. The government should not be preventing its citizens from voting; it should be doing everything in its power to enable them to vote.
And the American people should not have to worry that elections are being decided in Moscow.
(Doug Epperhart is a publisher, a long-time neighborhood council activist and has served on the Board of Neighborhood Commissioners. He is a contributor to CityWatch and can be reached at: Epperhart@cox.net) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.
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