Tahlequah Daily Press

September 19, 2012

Take advantage of right to vote


TAHLEQUAH — All the talk about the disenfranchising voters for the Nov. 6 general election should be disheartening for everyone who values the tenets of democracy. Unfortunately, with the polarization between parties and “gerrymandering” allegations from state to state, it seems the only ones bothered by voting hijinks these days are the folks whose party stands to lose the most.

Oklahoma has seen its share of “gerrymandering” for the state Senate, and because many people adopted an attitude of apathy or resigned helplessness instead of fighting for their rights, Cherokee County will no longer have a senator to call its own. Instead, we will share him with an eclectic mix of people residing in a G-shaped area of northeastern Oklahoma.

But Oklahomans are luckier than voters in a handful of other states: the restrictions haven’t been as acute, and those who don’t have photo IDs can still get through their polling places with their voter ID cards.

Widespread allegations of voter fraud is the rationale behind the new voter ID laws, although studies and investigations have shown fraud to be largely a red herring. Dead voters are routinely swept from rolls, and the number of fraud cases has been so minuscule that it can’t affect the outcome of elections. What could and will affect the outcome, however, are rigid laws that tend to discourage certain segments of people from voting.

In some states, people have to travel 30 minutes to engage in early voting, or even to register. This is a real problem for the countless Americans who don’t have transportation, or who are too old or infirm to get around easily. Many don’t have driver’s licenses, either, and in states requiring a photo ID for voting, people must pay to have IDs made; this, too, can be cost-prohibitive.

Some states have attempted to do away with early voting altogether, which presents a serious handicap for many working people, those in rural areas, or those who will be out of pocket on election day. Another impediment to voting comes with the registration process. Certain election boards in some states have reportedly started to strictly curtail business hours, or have so few registrars available that people may have to wait in line for inordinately long periods of time.  

The lack of flexibility in some states would seem to constitute a “poll tax” – a pre-condition or limitation placed on a person’s right to vote. That’s illegal in this country as per the 24th Amendment – at least when it comes to national elections. Since we’re voting for president Nov. 6, the law would apply.

Even though Oklahoma hasn’t been targeted for adopting procedures that hamper the elderly, the infirm, the poor and people of color from voting, those who want to exercise their constitutional right to cast ballots should always be prepared. That means when they go to the polls, they’ll need their voter ID cards or some other form of ID. if you forget your ID, you can still cast a provisional ballot.

If you’re not registered to vote, you still have time to do so: Friday, Oct. 12 is the last day. Just go to the election board at 910 S. College, or download an application form at http://www. ok.gov/elections/documents/vrform.pdf and follow the instructions. Changing your political affiliation won’t be important right now, because while Oklahoma has a closed primary (you can only vote on the ballot of the party with which you’re registered), you can vote for whomever you want for the general election.

If casting your ballot Nov. 6 is inconvenient, you can vote at the election board, 910 S. College, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, Nov. 2 and Monday, Nov. 5, and from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 3. If you’ll be out of county those days, you can request an absentee ballot by Oct. 31.

Voting isn’t that difficult for Okies – at least, not yet. It’s important that you case your ballot for this election, and all others. Consider it your civic duty.