Is Your Right to Vote Being Called to Question?

Monday, October 27, 2008

It's almost 8 days until the history making elections day when Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain go head to head in the final leg of the race for the White House. The country is on edge and divided between the two candidates -- never in my lifetime have I witnessed such a national interest in politics nor such low down schemes to hold the other party back. But just when I think that I have seen and heard it all, people manage to find new ways to surprise.

Earlier today, the Associated Press released an article detailing the voter 'purging' of more than 50,000 registered voters in the state of Georgia alone. These are citizens who have been "flagged" due to a so called computer mismatch in their personal identification information ... "At least 4,500 of those people are having their citizenship questioned and the burden is on them to prove their eligibility to vote." The article highlighted this specific story of an Atlanta resident and United States citizen:

College Senior Kyla Berry was looking forward to voting in her first presidential election, even carrying her voter registration card.

But about two weeks ago, Berry got disturbing news from local election officials.

"This office has received notification from the state of Geargia indicating that you are not a citizen of the United States and therefore, not eligible to vote," a letter from the Fulton County Department of Registration and Elections said.

But Berry is a U.S. citizen, born in Boston, Massachusetts. She has a passport and birth certificate to prove it.

The letter, which was dated October 2, gave her a week from the time it was dated to prove her citizenship. There was a problem, though -- the letter was postmarked October 9.

"It was the most bizarre thing. I immediately called my mother and asked her to send my birth certificate, and then I was like, 'It's too late, apparently,'" Berry said

This is a situation that has been echoed all across the country and has raised fears, for members of both parties, of the possibility of voter suppression. The problem with this situation, though, is the fact that the letters to these citizens were written during the first few days in October and then mailed a few days after that, according to the postmark date on the envelopes (this is a clear violation of two federal laws against voter purging within 90 days of the election). These citizens have been given an almost impossible deadline to follow if they want to get their voting rights back. Politicians and Lawyers all across the country have jumped on the issue in order to protect voter rights and prevent a systematic voter suppression. This is an election that is far too important and a historical landmark to be foreshadowed by such an undemocratic event. The basis of the democratic system is that every person has a voice and, this year, there has been a remarkable increase in the number of new voters (especially new voters that are African American and/ or young first time voters).

If you have not voted already, make sure that your voting credentials are up to date and valid. Although the burden of proof of your eligibility to vote is on you, and you alone, the American government has a responsibility to each and every one of us to correct this issue before election day. Every eligible person (meaning, every US citizen or foreign national over the age of 18 that is not a felon) that wants to cast a vote on November 4 should be able to do so, even if that means that they need to bring their birth certificate and picture ID along with their voter registration card to the election polls. Don't wait until the very last minute!