It is both a shame and a public service that the Melissa Harris-Perry Show on MSNBC has a segment called “This Week In Voter Suppression”. It’s a shame because cowardly, anti-democratic and racist voter suppression tactics by local Republican parties are still being enacted even at the 11th hour of the election season, making the segment necessary. On the other hand, It’s a public service because honestly, if it were not for the MHP show there would be no other major televised news outlets paying any systematic attention to this nationwide assault on democracy. These voter suppression activities re not the actions of rogue individualists or out of touch local parties. It is important that some news outlets weave together the various strands that connect local parties to companies like Strategic Allied Consulting to the national Republican Party. The reason this is so important right now? The critical swing state of Virginia has finally made it clear just how far the Republican Party is willing to go to rig this election.
While reports have begun surfacing since last Friday about Colin Small, the skin-head looking 23 year old GOP operative caught destroying completed voter registration forms, in the mainstream press, there is another element to the Virginia voting story that has been overlooked. First let us acknowledge that Small is just the tip of the ice-berg. If he was caught trashing 8 voter registrations right before a deadline who knows how many more were destroyed over the last few months? Given that the Republican Party has put forth shell voter registration groups near James Madison University, who knows how many other college students across the state have had their registrations destroyed? There is already evidence that college voters are slowing beginning to realize that they might’ve already been robbed of the franchise. However the situation is even worse than destroyed registrations when you take a look at the Republican leaning board of elections in the state of Virginia.
According to the Washington Post, Democrats in Fairfax County, the most diverse, populous and blue leaning part of Virginia fear that the state board of elections is making last minute tweaks to suppress and eliminate absentee ballots. Staffed by former Bush administration officials and strong Voter Suppression advocates the board members last week uttered a few public statements suggesting that “poor handwriting” and other subtle “imperfections” might be grounds to discount absentee ballots. Current law is supposed to allow for a man named “Robert” to sign an absentee ballot as “Rob” and it’s still acceptable, but not if local GOP officials have anything to say about it. They will discount these ballots immediately, and what’s worse, unlike registration fraud from the Small case, these will be men and women who already think they have voted and will have no idea that their franchise is in the trash with coffee grounds and missing chads.
What’s the solution? There are only a few options now for Virginia voters since registration is closed. Any voters who are in areas that were potentially affected by GOP fraud need to call their local board of elections and file a complaint if they can’t find any on-line documentation of their registration. Further, if you are filling out an absentee ballot you need to make sure that you dot your “I’s” and cross your “T’s” because the GOP will be looking for any reason in the world to trash your ballot. Unfortunately at the individual level, this is all people can do right now until litigation has begun or a further investigation occurs.
A good consultant friend of mine said to me recently “The problem with voter suppression is that you want to talk about it because you need people to know it’s happening, but if you talk about it too much people get discouraged and they don’t vote.” Hopefully the public will prove him wrong on November 6th. The Republican Party in every swing state is doing everything in their power to stop people from voting and those efforts shouldn’t discourage you from voting, they should encourage you to fight for your right to self- determination.