Voter Supression Must End
Well after midnight, in the early morning on November 7th, President Obama took to the podium to address an enthusiastic crowd of supporters. In thanking all of those who volunteered their time for his campaign and those who voted, the President made reference to the tremendous lines that many voters endured. Although this year’s election did not boil down to a debate about butterfly ballots, troubling signs of voter suppression are cause for concern.
At RACblog, we kept you up to date on the risks of voter ID laws and voter suppression, and explained that they are more likely to lead to disenfranchisement than to cut down on real voter fraud. In Pennsylvania, we applauded the ruling that prevented such laws from going into effect this election cycle. Yet, postponed implementation of the regulations did not prevent some from seeking to use Voter ID laws as a scare tactic to intimidate voters. For example, controversial billboards targeting Pennsylvania’s Hispanic population falsely suggested that voters could not participate in the election without an ID.
Voter suppression was not unique to the Keystone State. In Florida, voters struggled to cast their ballots when Governor Rick Scott refused to extend early voting hours, even as lines continued to form. Former Governor Charlie Christ explained that the only explanation for Scott’s decision was voter suppression, adding that the act was unconscionable. The Florida Governor has since called for an investigation of the state’s voting process
Despite sickening efforts to suppress mainly minority votes, analysts are suggesting that voter suppression efforts may have backfired this election cycle. Rather than become discouraged by attempts to inhibit minority participation, many viewed such efforts as more reason to turn out to vote and to endure difficult lines. In contrast to the efforts to suppress their votes, Black and Hispanic voters increased their share of the electorate in this election.
As Jews as well as Americans, it is our responsibility to play an active role in our community and choosing its leaders. Rabbi Yitzhak taught that “A ruler is not to be appointed unless the community is first consulted” (Babylonian Talmud Berachot 55a). Given the Jewish community’s historical role in the struggle for civil rights, allegations of voter disenfranchisement and evidence of higher numbers of disqualified votes for citizens of color compel us to speak out. It is our duty to ensure that all citizens are afforded the opportunity to vote and have their votes counted. If we are to claim to be a model of democratic government, we must cease attacks aimed to disenfranchise our own citizens.
Photo Courtesy of craigconnects.org