May 22, 2013
Who Gets to Vote?
Posted on Oct 16, 2008
By Amy Goodman
The 2008 presidential election may see the highest participation in U.S. history. Voter-registration organizations and local election boards have been overwhelmed by enthusiastic people eager to vote. But not everyone is happy about this blossoming of democracy.
ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, has become a lightning rod for the right wing. ACORN’s Web site notes that “the electorate does not reflect the citizenry of the United States of America. It skews whiter, older, more educated and more affluent than the citizenry as a whole.” Bertha Lewis, ACORN’s lead organizer, told me: “We organize low- and moderate-income people, usually folks who are minorities—African-Americans, Latinos, Asians and working-class white people. And most of these folks have always been disenfranchised out of the electoral process. ... We’ve registered 1.3 million new voters across the country over an 18-month period of time. We had over 13,000 hard-working voter-registration workers. And we may have had a few bad apples, but I don’t know any organization that didn’t.”
Barack Obama himself was questioned about ACORN’s problematic registrations. He said: “Having run a voter-registration drive, I know how problems arise. This is typically a situation where ACORN probably paid people to get registrations, and these folks, not wanting to actually register people, because that’s actually hard work, just went into a phone book or made up names and submitted false registrations to get paid. So there’s been fraud perpetrated on probably ACORN, if they paid these individuals and they actually didn’t do registrations. But this isn’t a situation where there’s actually people who are going to try to vote, because these are phony names.”
ACORN has seen some clearly fraudulent registrations submitted, with names like “Mickey Mouse” turned in. ACORN says it reviews all the registration forms. However, it does not serve as the ultimate arbiter of which registrations are fraudulent. In fact, ACORN cannot legally throw away any voter-registration cards. It flags suspicious cards and submits them to the appropriate state election authority to make the judgment.
Republicans are increasingly alarmed at the shifting demographics of the United States. Minorities tend to vote Democratic, and the United States is slowly becoming a majority minority country—by 2050, whites will no longer represent a majority in the U.S. As right-wing commentator Patrick Buchanan lamented in 2004: “In 1960, when JFK defeated Nixon, America was a nation of 160 million, 90 percent white and 10 percent black, with a few million Hispanics and Asians sprinkled among us. We were one nation, one people. We worshiped the same God, spoke the same English language.” Buchanan’s xenophobia highlights a political reality: Immigration and mobilization of the urban poor are shifting the electorate to the Democrats, especially in key swing states like New Mexico, Colorado, Florida and Ohio.
Citizen groups like Election Protection and Video the Vote are organizing to document and report problems at the polls on Nov. 4. It is more likely that they will see honest people denied the right to vote, purged from the voter rolls, than an attempt by Mickey Mouse to vote Obama.
Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.
Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 700 stations in North America. She has been awarded the 2008 Right Livelihood Award, dubbed the “Alternative Nobel” prize, and will receive the award in the Swedish Parliament in December.
Distributed by King Features Syndicate
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