Monday, September 27, 2004Voting Rights Act? What Voting Rights Act?
It's be a great year for new voter registration drives. Both parties have made it a focus, but the Democrats have been working particularly hard, and have begun to reap the rewards. Hard numbers are difficult to come by, but in places where reliable estimates have been made, new voter registrations have been leaning towards the Democratic party by fantastic margins. In Ohio, for example, new registrations in heavily Democratic areas have gone up by 250% since Jaunary -- compared to an increase of about 25% in predominantly Republican areas. That's great news for us, although obviously every newly registered voter is a valuable addition to the process.
Well, maybe not, at least not in Ohio. In that state, the Republican Secretary of State, Kenneth Blackwell, has issued some interesting directives to the local election boards, directives that jeopardize hundreds of new registrations because they're on the wrong paper stock:
Voters-rights advocates are criticizing two recent decisions by Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell that they say will unfairly limit some people's ability to vote Nov. 2. Blackwell's office has told county boards of elections to follow strictly two provisions in Ohio election law:
One requires Ohio voter registration cards be printed on thick, 80-pound stock paper.
The other ordered boards to strictly interpret the rules regarding provisional ballots, the ones cast by voters who move before the election but are still registered in Ohio.
The paper-stock issue is frustrating Montgomery County Board of Elections officials, who have a backlog of registrations to complete. If they get an Ohio voter registration card on paper thinner than required, they are mailing a new card out to the voter. But if they still have the backlog by the registration deadline, Oct. 4, voters will not have another chance to get their correct paperwork in, said Steve Harsman, deputy director of the Montgomery County board. In Montgomery County there is a backlog of around 4,000 registrations, Harsman said. A few hundred could be affected by this provision, he said.
A lot of these new registrations, it has been suggested, are likely from national voter registration drives such as Rock The Vote. People print out registration forms for their state at home and send them in; and in Ohio, those forms are now about to be chucked out on a technicality.
Republicans: totally against bureaucratic nitpicking... unless it helps them in an election, in which case they can nitpick with the worst of 'em.
Anyway, the move is entirely illegal.As it says in the 1971 Voting Rights Act:
No person acting under color of law shall -
deny the right of any individual to vote in any election because of an error or omission on any record or paper relating to any application, registration, or other act requisite to voting, if such error or omission is not material in determining whether such individual is qualified under State law to vote in such election;
So basically what we have here is a blatantly un-democratic move that could potentially stop hundreds of new voters, each of whom did everything they were supposed to do to exercise their right to vote, from voting, and which probably disenfranchises many more new Kerry voters than new Bush voters.