Voter Suppression and Occupy

There are a handful of things in the political world that genuinely scare me. They tend to be the things that have real power that I individually can’t ignore but can’t do much about; the Tea Party or Sheldon Adelson immediately come to mind. But most recently I learned about True the Vote, “a Tea Party-backed group that has sued states to purge voter lists and plans to train at least 1 million poll watchers this year.” Read that again. They’re training 1 million “poll watchers.” If they reach their goal, that is nothing short of an army. And these so-called poll watchers exist exclusively for the purpose of voter intimidation. They come out and admit it. Their intention is to make voting “Like driving and seeing the police following you” (source). While I’ll be the first to admit that one shouldn’t be scared of having the police behind you if you’ve got nothing to hide. But if you’re a member of a population that’s used to harassment, it might be reason to stay off particular roads entirely. (I’ve had the pleasure of being pulled over and accused of having weed in my car. I didn’t. The best explanation I had was being on the road at 2 am with stickers on my car. After being pulled out of the car to take sobriety tests, I was sufficiently shaken.)

Let’s get something out of the way. Voting is a right, not a privilege. There are American citizens who are investing time, energy, and gobs of money into fighting virtually non-existent voter fraud. Clearly, they’re not actually concerned with voter fraud, but with the idea that people who will vote for their opponents–or that they don’t believe should be voting at all–are voting. I appreciate that they have a story and that they’re sticking to it. But I don’t actually think anyone is buying it. I recently had to get a new ID having moved to Massachusetts. I now have a temporary paper ID that doesn’t even have my full name on it. I’m hesitant to even go to a bar where I might be asked for ID. What’s to happen to me if my permanent ID doesn’t arrive before election day? And what happens when they ask about my [long, hyphenated name] that is inaccurate on my license? You get the idea.

So there may be a million people committing the crime of voter intimidation on Election Day. This is a reality. Say all you want about the far right but they are friggin’ organized. And you’ll have to excuse me if i don’t trust every local municipality to act. At this point, I get a bit depressed but also begin to wonder if there’s anything I can do. I started discussing it with my partner. Being in the position of privilege we’re in, perhaps we could take the day off and be present at the polls. But we live in Massachusetts where we might not be needed. But we’re a bus ride away from New Hampshire or Pennsylvania. Or I could rent a car for the day and shuttle those who don’t have transportation to the polls. How could I be useful?

Coincidentally, I saw this cartoon on Daily Kos the other day.

Comic via Daily Kos

And I wonder where is the Occupy Movement in all of this? The movement is committed to making sure everyone has a voice, no? Is this not the perfect opportunity to ensure just that? I’ll start by saying I support the movement and my friends involved but have my frustrations with it. I also recognize that it’s an apolitical movement, and as the comic clearly illustrates, won’t be backing a political candidate anytime soon. That’s fine as well. (Though I’m not so happy about the number of folks I’ve run into who are just not voting. That’s another discussion.) But, wouldn’t this be a great opportunity to activate a large number of people who care in a nonpartisan way? We don’t care who you vote for, we just want to make sure you vote.

The fact is, I’d love to hear this is already happening but I couldn’t find much. Nor have I been recruited or received a pitch in any particular way. And before you tell me to initiate, I know that there are experts out there that know where the manpower is needed. I’d sooner plug in to a work already in progress. (I’m temporarily relieved when I learn about groups working to register voters but that doesn’t put people on the ground on election day.) Please, tell me how I can get involved. If there is a place for me to be, I want to be there. If there is an organization fighting the good fight, I want to send the money. This is as important as any other cause and has a deadline approaching.

I’m basically looking for reasons not to be sick to my stomach and embarrassed to be an American over this. Help?

UPDATE 7:47 PM: Responses on twitter!

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