The Journal Gazette
 
 
Wednesday, August 04, 2021 1:00 am

Doing right by your rights

Keep pressure on lawmakers on suppression efforts

Larry Scheiman

One of the biggest threats to democracy and our constitutional right to vote is voter suppression.

Indiana has used gerrymandering to favor voters in the political party in power when redistricting is done after the census each 10 years.  This has been used for decades.

Two principal methods are used in gerrymandering: cracking (diluting the voting power of the opposing party's supporters across many districts) and packing (concentrating the opposing party's voting power in one district to reduce its voting power in other districts).

It is a frustrating position for voters to have to fight off attempts to make voting more difficult. Indiana's voting laws are already among the most restrictive in the nation, with relatively short voting hours on Election Day, a voter registration deadline a month out from the election, restricted polling places in strategic areas and strict rules for who can vote using an absentee ballot.

Indiana says it has free and fair elections. It even has an “Indiana Voter's Bill of Rights” on its website, in.gov. One section is titled: “You have the right to free and fair elections.” It states:

• “Vote Fraud: If you knowingly vote at an election when you are not authorized to vote, you are committing a felony and can be fined up to $10,000, jailed for up to two and one-half years, or both. Please be aware of the following prohibited acts of fraud and misrepresentation:

• You must not vote more than once in any election (please note that this does not include voting a replacement ballot after a spoiled ballot was invalidated).

• You must not procure or submit materially false or fraudulent voter registration applications in any election.

• You must not procure, cast or tabulate materially false, fraudulent or fictitious ballots in any election.

• You must not pay, offer to pay or accept payment for voting, registering to vote, withholding a vote, or voting for or against any candidate in any election.

• You may not make any false statement of claim that you are a citizen of the United States in order to register or vote in any federal, state or local election.”

How does that assure you of a free and fair election? Voting laws that open the election process to more participation and make it more convenient are highly popular in places where they exist. Advocates for expansion of voting rights should remember that.

But that is only a dream in Indiana. Just a few days ago, a federal appeals court upheld an Indianapolis-based judge's decision that blocked a voting law enacted in 2020 from taking effect. The law would allow county election officials to remove voters from registration roles without receiving consent from that person or notifying the voter and letting two federal elections pass without the person voting.

This is similar to a 2017 law that failed to meet the standard of the National Voter Registration Act. This is a prime example of voter suppression.

You read about voter apathy and low voter turnout. When elections are rigged, what can we expect? Most voters from the party not in power are mitigated by the restrictions placed on them or they don't vote at all because they think “it doesn't matter.” Their wants and needs are negated.

Some easy fixes include installing an independent redistricting commission that would not use any political data in drawing up districts, introducing permanent no-excuse mail-in ballots, shortening voter registration deadlines, extending voting hours and adding or expanding polling places.

All eligible voters have the right to vote and it should be as convenient as possible. Unfortunately, the party in charge doesn't see it that way. They seem to think they can only win when they suppress votes.

State legislators are expected to draw redistricting lines in September that will be used for the next 10 years. These new districts will determine nine congressional districts, and 100 House and 50 Senate districts for the state. If they skew these districts as they have in the past, the outcome will not be any different. The voting system will remain rigged and things will remain the same.

It isn't a healthy democracy with only one party in charge. That party will only be concerned with what their voters want and neglect the needs of other citizens.

I have expressed my concerns in writing to the governor, secretary of state, my state representative and state senator. I received no response.

The Republican Party has been in control for so long, it does whatever it can to stay in power. It is less transparent and less accountable for its actions as time goes on. Is this the kind of state government we want? If not, please call or write our state officials and express your concerns about what they are doing with our voting rights. They are supposed to work for us.

Voting is a right guaranteed by the Constitution. Let's not squander it. I am a war veteran and I know how valuable freedom is and what it takes to preserve it. We can't continue down this path of division if we want a healthy democracy. Thousands of our forefathers died so we may enjoy what they gave us.

 

Larry Scheiman is a Fort Wayne resident.


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