Is California the “new” Florida? That’s what many
voters are asking after the nation’s largest state, California,
was engaged in a massive voter dispute around “Decline To
States" (DTS) voters (what the rest of the nation commonly
refers to as Independent voters) in last week’s primary
election. While the political pundits and delegate “bean
counters” called the state for Clinton 20 minutes after the
polls closed, it was learned that hundreds of thousands of
California’s independent voters were not being counted.
California has over 700,000 “decline to state”
voters – some 94,000 who voted in Los Angeles County alone,
and were allowed to vote in the state’s Democratic Primary.
It was disclosed at the end of Election Day that if DTS voters
failed to punch a bubble at the top of their ballots, their
vote wouldn’t count. Well, there was only one problem with that
- most poll workers didn’t inform voters that it was necessary
to do so. Invariably, most did not (including myself). Now they’re
telling us our vote won’t count - not in 1868, or 1968 - but
in 2008. I don’t think so… Funny how when change shows up so
does oppression and repression. Or in this case, suppression.
of this week, the issue still hasn’t been resolved and most
feel this level of disfranchisement simply cannot be tolerated.
Those denied votes might change the outcome of the election
and delegate count that are apportioned to the candidates. Even
if the delegate apportionment doesn’t change one iota, the point
is, “here we go again” with the type of “poli-tricks” and trick-a-ration
for which America has a long history. This is the type of game
that frustrates the voting electorate into staying out of American
Nobody, I repeat, NOBODY is bringing new voters
to the election process like Barack Obama. While he will have
to battle Hilary Clinton (and later what probably will be John
McCain) in the campaign, he will have to battle voter suppression
at the ballot box in every state. Yes, in the Southern states
such as Florida, in the Northern states such as Ohio and even
in (too) laid back California. Voter suppression is now Barack’s
biggest opponent. Voter suppression is any form of activity
that causes a willing voter not to be able to exercise their
right to vote.
In California last week, we witnessed voter suppression
take several forms. The DTS “bubble” glitch was just the most
egregious act that could be measured. There were several other
activities that were frequently reported but that can’t be measured
in their totality, largely because we cannot ascertain how many
people actually walked away in frustration. Just know that there
The other major act of voter suppression was with
new voters who were recently registered but whose names were
not listed on precinct voter registration rolls. People were
being told that it wasn’t their voting place, and that they
had to find “their” polling place. Most of these new voters
were young people who didn’t know that their right to vote could
not be declined - nor did they know to ask for provisional ballots
that allows contested voters to vote while their issue waits
to be resolved at a later time. For provisional ballot voters,
their vote counts now, although it will be counted last, but
at least they were able to exercise their right to vote.
Some voting machines were malfunctioning and voters
were told to come back when the machines were fixed, instead
of being given paper ballots. How many young people do you think
came back after having come once? There were some polling places
that ran out of ballots. This is a common ploy that historically
low voter turnout precincts encounter. It usually takes a couple
hours to get new ballots over to the location. How many people
have come and gone in that time period?
Some people were being told that they were Republicans
(who couldn’t vote in the Democratic Primary) and weren’t given
a ballot at all. This happened to my daughter, who voted in
the last three elections as a democrat. It was not until she
demanded a provisional ballot (which she didn’t know to do until
she spoke with her sister, who also had to demand one, for a
different reason) that she was able to vote. Ironically enough,
some dozens of their friends (I had them call their friends
who promised me they would vote) encountered the same difficulties.
While I’ve been known to suspect a conspiracy or two in my time,
I found it awfully coincidental that almost every young person
I knew had encountered some form of voting resistance.
real conspiracy here is whether “the powers that be” really
want millions of new voters to fuel the reformation of the political
process. I trust not. The change in America starts with the
opening of the eyes of the masses of people in recognizing their
equality rests in their ability to participate in the democracy
that governs the land. The fewer who participate, the greater
the number who can be exploited, excluded and forgotten. So
the change we are witnessing is not just about a change in political
ideology. It’s not just about a change in mindset of campaigning
practices. It’s a change of the mindset of political efficacy,
in terms of how the people see themselves making a difference
in the political process, through engagement and participation.
No one who is registered to vote can be denied the act of voting.
In this instance, what you don’t know can hurt you.
Those who are joining the campaign to change America
are not just helping Barack defeat Hilary and the Republicans.
They are helping him defeat voter disfranchisement. That will
be the biggest opponent Barack will have to defeat. He can turn
out all the voters in the world, but if they never get to vote,
who wins? The same ones that have always won when literacy tests,
poll taxes, white primaries and other impediments block the
paths of voting. Power will do anything to stay in power, including
continuing to disenfranchise voters. Voter suppression is an
active (not passive) political strategy that we can’t ignore,
and must fix before the November elections. Only then will we
Columnist Dr. Anthony Asadullah Samad is a national
columnist, managing director of the Urban Issues Forum
and author of the new book, Saving The Race: Empowerment Through Wisdom. His Website is AnthonySamad.com.
here to contact Dr. Samad.