Monday, November 03, 2008

Voting in Pennsylvania

One of those dark open secrets of American democracy is the embarrassingly low voter turnout rates. The U.S. is a country that considers 50% participation to be high. Dictatorships around the world point to this number and tell their populations that American democracy is a myth and not for their people. And they point to their 100% turnout in their elections, with 99% of the votes for the winning (and only) candidate. After all, 100% turnout is much more representative then the <50% the U.S. gets, even for a presidential election. It is a hard argument to refute.

This is one of the things that makes voter suppression efforts in the U.S. to be so insulting. The right to vote is the foundation for all the other rights. When an interest is shut out of the political process, the only means left to being heard is through violence. The right to vote brings groups that would otherwise resort to extremes and violence into the political process. And in the U.S. and around the world, moderates them. The modern classical example is the Basque region of Spain, where Basque separationist have operated for generations. Then the Basques were given semi-autonomy, and the responsibility of governance. Even with many issues still open, the violence went down.

To attempt the wholesale rejection of people's right to vote is to refute representative government as created by principles enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. It is cynicism in the extreme. One of the perverse effects has been the wholesale challenges to a large number of voter registrations in Ohio, where one of the challenged names was Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher, also known as "Joe the Plumber." But Joe will be glad to know that the Democratic Party is fighting for his right to vote.

Voting information for Pennsylvania

Protecting your right to vote

How to use voting machines in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania (ES&S iVotronic video)
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