Observations on Election Day
- by Mark Yu
Regardless of the final outcome, the latest presidential election has already revealed the sad state of American politics. The idea of government "of the people, by the people, and for the people" remains an unfulfilled promise more than one hundred and forty years after it was articulated by Abraham Lincoln. The small amounts of popular sovereignty won through the struggles and bloodshed of working people are continually threatened by ruling class interests. Democracy is being slowly poisoned by the corrupting power of corporate money and violently pummeled by political gangsters working to deny large numbers of people their most basic democratic right, the right to vote.
Officials and organizations aligned with the Bush campaign have been engaged in a systematic and well-documented effort to prevent African Americans and other potential Democratic voters from casting their ballots. The effort has involved the full spectrum of dirty tactics, from the sinister to the absurd. In Nevada, employees of a voter registration company funded by the Republican National Committee reported that their supervisors deliberately destroyed forms filled out by Democrats.1
Attempts at voter suppression have been even more pronounced in the two key states of Florida and Ohio, where the Republican Party apparatus has been directly implicated. Greg Palast, the investigative journalist, reported on a recent BBC Newsnight program that the Bush campaign in Florida compiled a list of nearly 2,000 voters who reside in the African American neighborhoods of Jacksonville. The only purpose of such a list would be to challenge each of the voters when they showed up to cast their ballot. A person who is challenged must sign an affidavit declaring that he or she is legal voter. Employed on a massive scale, this tactic not only delays the electoral process, it dissuades and intimidates voters. In addition, it is illegal under federal law to use race as a criteria for challenging voters.2
If the importance of a state in the election can be judged by the amount of voter suppression, Ohio would be at the very top. Kenneth Blackwell, the Republican Secretary of State, tried in mid-September to disqualify voter registration forms that were printed on paper that did not meet a certain weight requirement. Shortly after he issued his ridiculous "weight directive," Blackwell gave a second order to Ohio election officials to refuse provisional ballots to voters who arrived at the wrong precincts.3 Both proposals were designed to diminish the impact of newly registered voters, who are predicted to lean heavily against Bush. The schemes of state secretary Blackwell aside, the Ohio Republican Party has been involved in an effort to remove 35,000 individuals from voting rolls, most of them people of color. The party has also hired thousands of operatives to monitor polling locations and challenge voters.
The legitimacy of the American political system rests on the assumption that the powerful few, despite their vast economic and political might, are at least respectful of the basic democratic rights of the great majority. This election, like the last one, betrays a far different reality.
Mark Yu, 19, is a student in Newark, NJ. He can be reached at: email@example.com.
1. George Knapp, "Voter Registrations Possibly Trashed," KLAS TV, 12 October 2004, available from:
2. Greg Palast, "New Florida vote scandal feared," BBC News, 26 October 2004, available from: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes
3. Margaret Kimberley, "Election 2004: The Vote Theft Begins," The Black Commentator, 28 October 2004, available from: http://www.blackcommentator.com/