by Joe Courter
As I write this, four days after Election Day, things are quite uncertain in the key Florida races. It will be almost a week from when I finish writing this to when you can read this. It is an odd feeling. This is a huge election for the direction of the State, and as well the balance in the Senate and the empowerment of the truly vile Rick Scott to a six-year term in DC. I leave any comment on the election outcome to the future…
What we DO know is that this election has shown us the many manifestations of voter suppression across the country, and the desperation of the right wing to cling to power in the face of oncoming demographic shifts in the country. Those in power from the Founding Fathers forward have always been wary of a true one person, one vote system. The rabble must be kept in check. I don’t need to run down the history of the 20th century regarding gender, race, property, and nationality being kept from voting. Heck even voting on a Tuesday, a work day for most, is a form of voter suppression. But now all kinds of other means are in use. Some are totally blatant and outrageous, limiting the opportunities to vote through minimized or moved polling places, and an obvious intentional selective shortage of voting machines resulting in long lines. This is amplified by electronic voting machines, which, in addition to being vulnerable to hacking, slow the process of actually voting as opposed to the paper ballot optical scan machines where your time at the machine is minimal.
In 2010 the Republicans pushed to gain control of state governments and thus the keys to redraw districts. This gerrymandering suppressed liberal voices, which resulted in state after state, though voting Democratic statewide, ending up with overwhelmingly Republican legislatures. This is not a new practice, but through technology it is done with cold-blooded precision. This is a HUGE reason the Gillum-DeSantis race mattered so much; 2020 and another census is right around the corner.
Yes, it is a very good thing we have early voting; from the looks of things the system could not handle it if everyone had but one 12-hour period to physically vote. It is overwhelmed in many places with just a 50 pecent turnout. But then we also have the ability to vote by mail. Both are good tools for Get Out the Vote efforts, but vote by mail is quite labor-intensive for elections offices and, as we are now seeing before our eyes, prone to being uncounted by understaffed or incompetent offices.
Purging voter rolls, precise signature matching, and strict ID laws all are aspects of direct voter suppression. Less obvious, the fluffing out the ballot with a bunch of confusingly worded amendments as was done in Florida made people feel uncertain and hesitant, and slowed the time to fill out the ballot. Another subtle form of voter suppression is Dark Money, the flood of anonymous money unleashed by Citizens United. This plays a role in elections too; while not directly suppressing the vote, it influences the electorate with false attack ads. We saw it twice in the same race here in North Florida when hidden backers of Keith Perry first tried to hurt the Kayser Enneking campaign with negative multi-card mailings “promoting” her grassroots challenger Olysha MaGruder (who I am sure they’d have rather faced), and then funding the soullessly opportunistic Charles Goston as a No Party Affiliate, who was used as a tool to siphon away black voters. (A well spent $120,000+, his 4 percent matched Perry’s margin of victory.) Negative campaigning itself suppresses turnout; people get disgusted with the mudslinging.
All these impediments to voting were in effect in 2018 and look what we did. Yes many of us were heartbroken at the seeming Republican sweep of Florida (you in the future know the real outcome), but the next day showed us that nationally things went pretty good. The House has flipped Blue, a huge alteration in the DC power balance with Democrats now in committee chairs. Many, many more women were elected to the House as well. Democrats gained 7 governorships (maybe 8?), 8 scientists were elected, and LGBT and ethnic minorities made great gains. State houses around the country went Blue, too.
Not the least of it here in Florida was the tremendous organizing it took to re-enfranchise 1.5 million citizens who had a felony conviction on their criminal record. It was a true grassroots people-to-people effort to get it on the ballot, and now it is all but a reality. So many people in our blue dot area got behind this campaign, and it is a huge win for democracy.
Let us hope this is a turning point, but don’t think it won’t be a fight. We need to work together, support each other’s struggles, and see the common enemy of ignorance and blind allegiance to reactionary ideology. But for now, again from the recent past as I sit here now November 10, COUNT ALL THE VOTES. And then we organize and move forward.