Over the last several years there has been a proliferation of bills introduced in Virginia and in many other states to prevent voter fraud. Conspicuously missing from the debate on these bills has been any specific examples of voter fraud having been committed. In fact, the greater problem with voting has not been that persons have been fraudulently voting; voter participation in Virginia and the nation has been embarrassingly low. The emphasis needs to be on getting more people to vote and not to make the process more cumbersome and bureaucratic so that it discourages voters.
The real fraud in the voting process occurs when legislators and others argue that the new laws are needed to clean up voting when the real purpose is to suppress voter participation. Under the guise of preventing voter fraud, legislators are taking fraud-like actions by establishing rules and procedures intended to confuse older and minority voters and to make it more difficult for them to vote.
Laws to discourage or prevent voting are not new to the American democracy. In the period ending Reconstruction after the Civil War, Democrats in Virginia and other southern states enacted voter registration requirements that disenfranchised most newly freed slaves. A blank-sheet registration form was used to register new voters. Whites from the right families could expect some help as to what to write on the sheet. Blacks were left to struggle about what information the state constitution required to be listed and in what order. The $1.50 poll tax had to be paid three years in a row, six months before the election in order for a person to vote. The system of controlling the electorate kept the Byrd Machine in Virginia and others in other states in power.
The current effort, clearly aimed to ensure that President Obama is not re-elected, is more circumspect. Already the courts have thrown out attempts in several states to suppress the vote. Virginia’s new voter requirements are not as bad as those in Pennsylvania and Florida and several other states, but voters do need to be aware to ensure that their vote is counted.
Voters in Virginia on Nov. 6 will be required to show identification. A photo ID is not required, but your valid driver’s license may be used for identification as well as your voter registration card, military ID, government issued ID, concealed handgun permit, student ID, utility bill, or bank statement. Without ID, a person will be allowed to vote a provisional ballot that will not be counted unless acceptable identification is provided by noon on Friday of the week of voting. For complete voting information, go to www.sbe.virginia.gov.
We need in the marketplace and in our communities to be aware of fraudulent actions that may take away our lifestyle and our property. In the voting process we need to ensure that we are not misled by fraudulent-like statements by politicians. Exercise and protect your right to vote; our democracy depends on it.