I live in a community in South Florida that is made up of 70 percent immigrants or children of immigrants from Latin America. Although the countries from which they came are as different as their reasons for leaving, there’s a common thread within their stories: They had no respect for their elected leaders because they had no respect for the electoral process that brought them to power.
I spoke with the Venezuelan patriarch of a large family who recently moved his family to Florida. The subject of Venezuela’s recent election came up. He said that “Hugo Chávez winning in the Miramar area of Caracas would be as if Mitt Romney won 90 percent of the vote in Harlem.”
The effort to suppress voting here is a most corrosive and dangerous threat to our country. If this is allowed to continue, no elected leader will be able to command respect for the presidency. Lack of respect for that office erodes democracy and leads to uprisings followed by dictatorial repression.
The suppression of the vote this year took many forms, and the excuses for these acts are both shallow and invalid: requiring picture IDs to prevent voter fraud, which doesn’t exist; imposing tight deadlines to submit registration forms — with harsh penalties for late filing. Purging large numbers of voters because addresses or telephone numbers didn’t match the registration forms disenfranchised many voters.
Disinformation about voting, moving polling places without adequate notice and or incorrect deadlines for filing kept many from voting. Many absentee ballots were mailed late to voters and might never be counted. Reducing the number of days for early voting, purposefully long ballots and inadequate voting facilities resulted in long lines and waits at the polls. Working people who don’t have the time were disenfranchised. Police in some areas have been known to block roads leading to polling places creating time-consuming delays for people trying to vote.
The parties and candidates who sponsor voter suppression should take no comfort in the result justifying the means. Unless they take steps to allow all eligible voters to exercise their right to vote, our country will be headed on a slippery slope to a dark place.
Harvey Rosenwasser, Key Biscayne