What if we made voting fun?

Jim Hightower
Jim Hightower

click to enlarge Jim Hightower - PHOTO BY LARRY D. MOORE
Jim Hightower
A consortium of national, state and local officials of Republican persuasion have mounted a tawdry campaign over the past decade to slam the ballot box shut on entire segments of America’s electorate.

In a concerted effort, these rabidly partisan officials have targeted African-Americans, students, Latinos, the elderly, union households, the poor, immigrants and other communities of qualified voters to shoo them away on Election Day. Why? Because such citizens tend to vote for Democrats and progressive ballot initiatives. So the GOP’s grand strategy is to “win,” and not by getting the most votes – by aggressively shutting out millions of Americans who might vote against their plutocratic, autocratic, kleptocratic candidates and agenda.

In a depraved, anti-democratic grab for partisan gain, Republican officials have frenetically been planting thick brier patches of ridiculous rules, logistical barriers, intimidation tactics, ballot deceptions and outright voter bans in targeted precincts across the country. These thugs are stealing the people’s most valuable civic property: our votes.

You don’t need a Ph.D. in political science to discover a shameful truth about America’s democratic process: It’s not all that democratic. In fact, as Chris Rock succinctly put it several years ago, “They don’t want you to vote.”

By “they,” he means the power elites who benefit by restricting the vote as tightly as possible to people who support candidates and policies that advance their plutocratic rule over “Us, the People.” We can wring our hands about the rampant voter suppression suffocating the people’s will, or we could join hands to support common-sense measures for voter expansion.

Start with basic ethics. It’s an abomination that politicians rig the system to exclude legitimate voters, and those who do so should be publicly shamed and mocked for their pretension that they’re “protecting the integrity” of the ballot box.

Tear down the barriers. Some 6 million felons who’ve paid their dues should be restored to full citizenship. Every 18-year-old should automatically be registered to vote. No mass purges of voter rolls. Vote-by-mail. Extended and easy absentee voting. Election Week rather than Election Day. Acceptance of any valid ID. Voting where you live. Restoring the Voting Rights Act. A constitutional amendment ensuring every eligible individual’s right to vote. And investing fully in our nation’s democratic infrastructure with verifiable voting machines, multiple polling places within easy reach of all, an abundance of trained poll workers to eliminate lines and quickly resolved problems.

And here’s a crazy idea: Make voting fun! It should be a festive occasion for the whole community. In Australia, for example, most polling places have barbecues. Why not add music, art, games and other enjoyment to make voting a truly civic activity? America’s democratic pageant doesn’t have to be a grinding obstacle course, an intimidating experience ... or boring. 

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