The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

November 8, 2012

Dismantle obstacles to voting


Daily Item

---- — President Barack Obama said something that struck at the heart of Tuesday's electoral experience as he spoke to supporters early Wednesday morning.

The president thanked the millions of people who voted, and specifically thanked those who had to endure lengthy waits in line to cast ballots.

"We have to fix that," Obama said.

Amen, to that.

Here is the thing, though.

Before we correct some of the election snafus that plagued voting on Election Day, we have to acknowledge what was really taking place. Those problems were neither accidents nor coincidences.When officials in key battleground states decide to shorten voting hours and do not provide the resource to shorten lines of voters, it is no random event with unintended consequences. It is a calculated attempt to influence an election.

That is just wrong. No, more than wrong, it is despicable and it ought to be a priority of every legislator to examine how the states and counties that manage the election process can stamp out the bungling and blatant voter suppression posing as run-of-the-mill government.

Voters ought to be able to select candidates without having to arm themselves with cell phone videos to document how the machine is trying to switch their vote.

But kudos to Andy Hirsch of Lewisburg for the quick thinking to capture exactly that experience at the East Buffalo Township polling location.

Nearby, Snyder County voters were greeted by bright pink signs demanding that they present identification, despite a judge's ruling that poll workers should not require identification in this election. Only after voters, understandly raised a fuss, did county officials remove the sign.

Valley voters just re-elected three now second-term lawmakers -- Reps. Fred Keller, Kurt Masser and Lynda Schlegel Culver. Any or all of them could demonstrate an interest in leadership for real election reform. Rather than compelling people to prove their identity genuine reform could make it easier to participate in elections by extending the time polls are open, allowing voting on weekends or providing additional alternatives to in-person voting on Election Day.

The triumph of democracy on Tuesday was that millions of Americans ignored, defied or overcame obstacles intended to keep them from voting. Lawmakers now ought to begin dismantling those obstacles.