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Election Day: The voting rights struggle gets real

ComptonHerald.org Digital Editor Tony Bear! with tips on how to make Election Day pain free.

Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images


There will be more to this Election Day than encouraging everyone to vote, as desperate measures are employed by people who think winning fair-and-square is out of reach

Suppressing minority votes has always been a threat to our democracy, even after the Voting Rights Act.

Gerrymandering of districts, voter registration challenges, and enacting stringent rules to weed-out people who would otherwise cast a vote continued. Since key parts of the Voting Rights Act were struck down by the Supreme Court, foes of true democracy have been emboldened to employ almost any means to dilute the power of the vote among people of color.

This year, the Republicans are in their most precarious position in decades. Most have kissed their chance at the presidency goodbye, and are turning their attention to giving “down ballot” candidates — state and local positions such as legislators, governors and congresspeople — at least a snowball’s-chance of getting elected. If enough votes are discouraged from the main Democratic-leaning groups such as Latinx, “white liberals,” young women and African-Americans, Republican candidates might grab enough wins to wield some real power for the party.

Republican governors and their cabinets are taking state’s rights to the limit, and going to great lengths to try regulate the number of registered Democratic-leaning voters. Court challenges to these tactics have resulted in numerous rebuffs from judges.

In some precincts, voter-suppression may morph into full-blown “voter intimidation.”

Trying to stop the vote

Purportedly, underground groups are at work now, training volunteers to target and harass people at polling sites, under the guise of “citizen journalism,” “election monitoring,” or “exit polling.” The goal: Create chaotic, confrontational scenes outside polling stations that could dissuade voters from even getting out of their cars.

Several municipalities around the country are cancelling school on Election Day, amid fears that the heated rhetoric leads to confrontations or even violence at the polling places in schools, putting children at risk.

USA Today found a majority of likely voters say they are concerned about violence on Election Day.

Some early voters have already been on social media declaring electronic voting machines are changing their Clinton votes to Trump. Investigations have revealed more “operator error” than fraud, but…

The last front: Polling station volunteers, who are often White, older, and conservative. These people will be charged with “protecting the integrity” of the vote with superfluous ID challenges, or misdirecting you to the wrong polling place. And, doing everything in their power to slow the pace of voting, so lines will grow long and ultimately discourage today’s time-sensitive younger voters.

Of particular concern: Young people, and new citizens who might be voting for the first time. And, elderly people of color. Members of these voting blocks could be the most vulnerable to discrimination and intimidation, and the easiest to dissuade from the polls.

Some non-partisan groups, such as The League of Women Voters and the Election Protection coalition are deploying legal volunteers and election observers to monitor activity, especially at mostly minority polling locations.

But, in the end, it comes down to making sure the voter is prepared.

As our political day of reckoning approaches, there are some things you can do before and on Election Day that will help you get through what has the potential to be a hectic, stress-filled experience. Remember, nothing worth having is ever easy. That applies to having the right to vote!

How to vote from your couch

The easiest, most efficient thing you can do is request a Vote-By-Mail ballot. In most counties, the deadline for making that request is October 31. You can make the request online, or print the request form and fax it in. Then, check your mail daily for the ballot. Problems with Vote-By-Mail do happen; if you receive the ballot too close to Election Day, complete it anyway. You should be able to breeze past the folks waiting in line on Election Day and drop it in the ballot box.

Preparing for the polling place

If you end up having to go to a polling place on Election Day to vote, be sure to first research your registration on your county recorder or secretary of state elections website. Print the web page documentation that shows your correct polling place. Take that with you on Election Day, along with something documenting your place of residence.

RELATED: Google how to vote tips

Review with your employer the company policy about time off on Election Day, so if you are stuck in a line you can breathe easy that your job is not in jeopardy.

Some counties have already established early voting polling sites, some of which are open on weekends, and accessible regardless of where you live. Check the elections website for a location nearest you, or enter your address HERE.

Know your stuff

Be prepared and knowledgeable about your rights, and, study all the issues and candidates so you can make good use of the ballot. Most PBS television stations have carefully prepared, non-partisan analyses of local ballot issues on their websites. You will get both sides of the ballot issues examined in plain talk. Complete your voting on a sample ballot you can take with you to the polling site.

If you have young people, take a couple nights and do your ballot homework together. You’ll have some spirited discussion, and Karma will give you credit for creating a human – and creating a “citizen.”

Don’t ask for trouble

Spread the word if you encounter or observe any of the tactics being employed by those trying to cheat their way to winning the election. However, avoid doing things like taking photos or talking to people, as this could quickly move you outside the lines of legitimate “poll watching” and into the realm of “intimidation.”

And, whatever you do, resist the temptation to take a selfie while voting – in some jurisdictions this is a misdemeanor.

Refrain from wearing or otherwise displaying campaign slogans. Poll workers could accuse you of “electioneering” within 100 feet of the polling site, which is illegal. You could be denied entry to the polls, or even arrested.

Tony Bear! has an extensive background in publishing for online and print, and in radio broadcasting. His hobbies are photography, cooking and interior decorating. Visit his blog, "The Celebrity-free Zone" at http://blog.tonybear.com

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