It is often easier to buy a gun than it is to vote
They say if you don’t vote you can’t complain. This is actually not true. You can complain all you want. Especially if you’re someone who has been blocked from voting. And in the U.S., a whole lot of people are blocked from voting. It’s supposed to be a super important right, but it’s often easier to buy a gun than it is to vote.
Around every election, especially presidential ones, we hear about voter roll purges on the news. Often, these purges are performed in Republican controlled states. And the people purged just happen to be — oh gosh wouldn’t you know it — people in heavily Democratic areas. When these people show up to vote, not knowing that their name has been thrown off the list, they can’t.
It is a matter of record that Republicans do not like it when people vote. This is especially true when it’s brown and black people voting. They holler and cry about “voting integrity.” They claim that onerous voter ID laws are the only way to protect the cherished institution. And yet they also work behind the scenes to make it as hard as possible, or at least stand in the way of making it easy.
Help America Vote Act was passed in 2002
Remember way back in 2000? The hanging chad fiasco? Lawmakers declared that we needed better laws about voting! So the Help America Vote Act was passed in 2002. And it solved all of our problems, the end, goodnight.
Just kidding. HAVA established some standards for elections and created the Election Assistance Commission. It also got rid of punch card ballots. However, all the HAVAs in the world can’t help when one of the major parties is actively hostile toward voting rights. And some folks welcomed interference from Russia into our elections to boot.
It also doesn’t help that Democrats have often ignored this issue. They take for granted that a large swath of their supporters often have to jump through extra hoops to get to the polls. The more hoops a person has to jump through, the less likely they are to vote. And it’s not because they’re lazy. It’s because they’re tired.
And if you have never found voting to be a challenge at all, if you’ve always been able to breeze in and out of your polling place to use shiny new voting equipment, never worrying about whether or not you had the proper ID or that your name might be crossed off the list, using your own reliable transportation while on your lunch break from your job that gives its employees time off to vote, congratulations. Please note your privilege and keep it in mind when you judge other people for not voting.
Trump is a big fan of conspiracies
Be very skeptical of anyone who says that the problem with elections in this country is voter fraud. Because that is simply not true. Trump may say that 3,000,000 “illegals” voted in the 2016 election, thereby denying him the popular vote. But there is absolutely no evidence of that. Not to mention the fact that it would have required a conspiracy among election officials on an epic scale. But then, of course, Trump is a big fan of conspiracies.
Voter suppression, however, is very real. People who scheme to find ways to get fewer people to vote are anti-American and anti-Democratic. If a person wants to make it easy for you to get an assault rifle. but wants to make it hard for you to cast a vote, then that person can stop claiming that they care about your constitutional rights. Also, they’re probably a Republican.
As I write this, it is the eve of the 2018 primary election. By the time you read this, people who want nothing more than to destroy the civil rights gains LGBT people have made (and those people will mostly be Republicans) will be real contenders for offices far and wide. Find out who is running where you live and for what offices. Don’t wait until November. Find a candidate you support and get involved in their campaign. Voting alone is not enough.
If you don’t vote, go ahead and complain all you want. But chances are you’ll have a lot less to complain about if you are part of the process.
D’Anne Witkowski is a poet, writer and comedian living in Michigan with her wife and son. She has been writing about LGBT politics for over a decade. Follow her on Twitter @MamaDWitkowski.