Bruce M. Berlin
America’s democracy is under siege once again. Across the country unscrupulous Republicans are purging voters’ rolls and reducing people’s access to the voting booth. They claim they are protecting our “sacred” right to vote from fraud.
During the last two years, claims of voter fraud have been used by Republican legislatures to enact laws that make it more difficult for people to register and/or to vote in more than 30 states. However, there is no evidence to suggest that voter fraud is really a problem. What we do know is that the fewer the number of people who cast ballots, the more likely Republicans are to win elections.
In the 2000 election, thousands of people were either blocked from voting or had their votes discounted when George W. Bush won Florida by fewer than 600 votes, and consequently, the presidency, with the devious assistance of his brother, then Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
Florida is at it again. On May 31, The New York Times opined that in Florida, “Republicans have never stopped searching for new ways to keep ballots out of the hands of minorities and poor people, groups that tend to vote Democratic. They have cut back on early voting, tried to stamp out registration drives, and imposed onerous identification requirements…. Now, hoping to gain a new edge, Gov. Rick Scott is trying to clear voter rolls of noncitizens, a menace that only he and a few other Republican governors have been able to detect.”
The Times also noted that “two states conducting similar voter purges are Colorado and New Mexico, which, like Florida, are swing states with large Hispanic populations. New Mexico’s wasteful investigation of 64,000 “suspicious” voter registrations found only 19 cases of voters who may have been noncitizens. Yes, our right to vote is under attack by Republicans here in New Mexico.
Unfortunately, the Democrats seem to be doing little to halt this outrageous assault on one of the keystones of our democracy—the right to vote. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has a petition you can sign to oppose the Republicans’ voter suppression efforts. But does anyone really believe that a petition will stop the Republican efforts to steal another election?
The chief lawyer in the Department of Justice’s voting rights division recently wrote a two-page letter to Florida officials asking why they chose to purge voting rolls within 90 days of Florida’s primary election without consulting the feds, an apparent violation of the Voting Rights Act. But given the Obama administration’s dismal record when it comes to standing up for ordinary citizens, be they union workers in Wisconsin or the millions who lost their jobs or homes due to the financial scams during the recent recession, I wouldn’t count on the feds to save the voters from the Republicans’ schemes. And, given that it’s Obama’s re-election that’s at stake here, you really have to wonder what’s with this president of ours.
Still, it’s not about Obama and the Democrats. It is about us, the people! Are we going to let the Republicans trample our democracy and steal another election? Do we care enough about our country and our rights to stand up and fight for them?
A year ago in Santa Fe, a group of New Mexicans got together to begin to fight back. They formed a citizens’ action group, WeArePeopleHere! (WAPH!), to educate the public about how we are losing our rights, the controlling influence the corporate plutocracy has over our government, and how Americans can mobilize to revive our democracy.
This is a huge undertaking that will require a mass movement to accomplish its goals. Consequently, WAPH! is organizing the Alliance for Reviving Democracy Conference (of which I am the coordinator), to bring together representatives of social action organizations from around New Mexico and neighboring states to begin building the mass movement needed to uproot the controlling influence of the plutocracy and develop strategies to transform our state and the country into a democracy that truly serves the needs of the people. The conference is being held at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe from July 27 to 29.
If you are interested in attending the conference, call 505-913-7263, email [email protected], or write WeArePeopleHere!, 1730 Camino Carlos Rey North, Rm. 209, Santa Fe, NM 87507.
Bruce Berlin is a Santa Fe attorney who has been a political activist most of his life. For ways to help take back America, go to MoveOn.org; DemocracyAtTheCrossroadsSF.org; or moneyouttapolitics.org.