Global Politics

Is the US making it too hard to vote?

Voting
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James Edwards

Ivanka Trump, Eric Trump and Erica Garner couldn’t be more different.

The two white scions of billionaire Donald J. Trump and the black social activist daughter of Eric Garner, whose Staten Island choking death sparked national outrage, have virtually nothing in common.

Until now.

None of them could vote in last week's New York primary election. Add their names to the list of potentially millions of Americans who will be blocked by onerous voter registration laws, many of them new and deliberately discriminatory.

Both Ivanka and Eric, registered independents, missed last October’s deadline to register as Republicans, which was required for New York’s closed primary. Their dad, Republican presidential candidate Trump, said the two siblings felt “very very guilty.” Erica Garner, one of Democrat presidential candidate Bernie Sanders' highest profile supporters, also missed the October deadline. She took to Facebook to express her frustration,” If yr nt a Dem or GOP you can’t vote???”  

Now, millions of Americans are facing voting barriers that go beyond what happened to Ivanka, Eric and Erica. These voters are running into new state laws limiting polling places, restricting election hours, and requiring special identification.

In the recent Wisconsin primary, Dennis Hatten found out exactly what that meant. The Marine veteran struggled for months to get the official state issued ID. But, at the polls, he was turned away because the address didn’t match his new polling place. Hatten had to go home, get a utility bill, and return. All told, it took him six months, two trips to the polls and an hour in line to cast his ballot.

He told The Nation’s Ari Berman “I’ve never had any problems voting until I came to Wisconsin.”

While he eventually was able to cast a ballot, he saw another veteran turned away because his veteran’s ID was not valid, and many college students rejected because their college IDs were not valid.

New York’s state law has long been on the books, but legislation in Wisconsin is one of several state laws seemingly designed to specifically suppress the participation of certain voters. I’m not theorizing — since 2008, 34 states have enacted voter ID laws, other states adopted restricted amendments. Mostly Republican-led legislatures approved the measures and lawmakers were publicly candid about their disenfranchisement efforts. Arizona’s Latino voters may have been the target in that state’s recent primary, but thousands of others felt the impact. All but 60 of the original 200 polling places in Maricopa County, where most Latinos live, were closed.

Shameful.

And in last week’s New York primary, 120,000 voters were suspiciously dropped from the voting rolls, but only from the list of registered Democrats. New York’s comptroller is conducting an audit, and admits, “These errors have conspired to bar first time and longtime voters from exercising their fundamental democratic right.”

Maybe all of these incidents will be enough to get Americans angry about the very real efforts to deny their fellow American citizens the right to vote. 

A version of this commentary first appeared on WGBHNews.org

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