Human beings are programmed with a need to control their environment whether it is in their place of abode, their job, or their community. There are countries in the world where government is chosen by military might, religious institutions, or by royal birth, but the people have little control of their own lives. America’s founders did not believe every resident had a right to choose their representatives, and it has taken over two hundred years to give every citizen a voice in choosing their representatives in government. When America invaded Iraq, one of the first tasks the military accomplished was providing Iraqi citizens with free and fair elections for the first time in decades, and it was a watershed moment for the people who suffered under the oppressive regime of Saddam Hussein. It is ironic then, that in America, the prospect of free and fair elections is being threatened by an avalanche of reports of voter suppression and fraud by the Republican Party.
Republicans are notorious for projecting their beliefs and practices on their opponents, and for the past two years their state legislative arm, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) passed restrictive and harsh voter ID laws to combat what they claimed was massive voter fraud. Over the past few months, reports of voter suppression and registration fraud have built up to the point that, like Iraq, this country’s election will be monitored by an international group to stop fraud and intimidation. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is a United Nations affiliate that will deploy 44 observers around the country on Election Day and an additional 80 to 90 members of parliament from nearly 30 countries to monitor American elections. The OSCE election monitors are from its human rights office that focuses on democratization, and they will be looking for voter suppression activities by conservative groups.
Americans should be embarrassed the country best known for promoting democracy around the world requires human rights monitors to ensure free and fair elections at home. The founder and leader of True the Vote, a conservative group seeking to crack down on election fraud was outraged and said, “activist groups sought assistance not from American sources, but from the United Nations,” but after months of reporting fraud, and Republican leaders refusing to follow court orders, there was little choice but to appeal to an outside source. The Justice Department cannot possibly keep up with the overwhelming number of cases committed exclusively by Republican groups who claimed voter fraud had reached epidemic proportions, but as usual, it is Republicans committing fraud.
OSCE is monitoring the elections after reports of “coordinated political effort to disenfranchise millions of Americans — particularly traditionally disenfranchised groups like minorities” that makes it a civil rights as well as an election issue. It has been widely reported (in liberal blogs) that the RNC hired a known Republican strategist with a reputation of voter registration fraud and attempts to suppress Democratic voter turnout for $3.1 million. Reports of destroying voter registration forms in Virginia last week drew minor attention from local media, and on Friday in Ohio, a Republican election official blamed a computer glitch for sending out notices to three precincts with improper polling places and news the election was Thursday, November 8 instead of Tuesday, November 6. There are myriad reports of voter suppression and fraud that one expects in young democracies like Iraq, and over the weekend two Iraq combat veterans noticed a parallel between elections in America and Iraq.
The young men served in Iraq leading up to the nation’s first free and fair elections, and it was their only source of pride at having served in Iraq. Although they felt betrayed and deceived at being sent to war over a lie, they said it was worth it to see Iraqis participating in their first fair election. Both men felt betrayed that after fighting to give Iraqis the right to participate in a fair election, their party was guilty of suppressing the vote and wondered if they should be deployed to protect Americans’ right to vote. They had heard a World War II veteran was purged from voter rolls in Florida, and opined that the President should send a squad of Rangers to guarantee the veteran was allowed to vote.
Americans should be outraged at Republican attempts to suppress votes, but the media has been negligent by not reporting the rampant voter suppression. In a large newspaper in Central California, there has not been one article or story reporting voter registration fraud or suppression efforts throughout the campaign. The paper said it was not “that big of a deal” and that it would cast unfair aspersion on Republicans so close to the election, so they would not report on it. Recently, it was brought to their attention the Republican chair of the Committee on Legislative Ethics committed voter fraud and faces removal from the ballot, but they demurred again because “it was a Southern California senator and not that big of a deal.”
Therein is the problem, and why Republicans continue flaunting the law, suppressing votes, and committing fraud; because “it’s not that big of a deal.” However, it is a big deal to the American people who lose their right to vote, and it is a big deal to an international human rights organization or they would not send monitors to stop “a coordinated political effort to disenfranchise millions of Americans — particularly traditionally disenfranchised groups like minorities.”
It is a sad commentary when America needs an international organization to monitor a general election, but it is crucial to save our democracy from Republican malfeasance. The founders believed only wealthy land owners deserved the right to vote, and after valiant struggles and Constitutional amendments, instead of celebrating every American’s right to vote, Republicans are suppressing voting rights. Hopefully with international monitors in place, every American who wants to vote will get the opportunity, but at the rate the GOP has suppressed the vote, it does not look very likely. It is a shame that the country that sent its soldiers to protect Iraqis right to vote cannot deliver that assurance to its own people; maybe the United Nations will do the job and save America’s democracy.