Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Election By Litigation

I worry that this may come to pass, even more this election than last. The Right blogosphere is reporting that the Democrats have thousands of lawyers on standby to quickly file protests for any election difficulties. I have no idea if that’s true, or what Republicans might have planned as well. I have read this however, which seems at least plausible.

Anyone actually disenfranchised should have a right to protest, of course. Even if it is inconvenient to the system, it’s an important right to protect – and too much inconvenience might force us to change our methods of keeping track of voters, which is likely a good thing. But there is an air of using litigation as a tactic rather than as a protection here. If you are one who believes that the Republicans are attempting to deny a certain class of voters – the poor, mostly - their rights, then flooding the courts will seem restorative. If you are one who believes that the inflated registrations by Democrats are going to result in fraudulent votes, then you will see the tactic as an intimidation. It would be nice if each voter were regarded neutrally of course, and I am sure that is how it is usually approached at the micro-level. To the poll worker, the person in front of them whose file is not quite in order but seems plausible should be regarded as a potential voter, not a potential Democrat or Republican voter.

But in the national discussion, that person is assumed to be a probable Democrat, and the Republicans want his bona fides to be established, while the Democrats claim that excessive suspicion is a type of discouragement, or even suppression. Both are correct, and how does the poor lady running the checklist keep that balance when it’s crowded and people are rude and impatient?

I worry most that it’s those ladies (and gents, of course) with the checklists and the other poll workers who are going to bear the brunt of this. I would hate to see any of them be publicly humiliated or challenged for behavior that is better than most of us would manage under pressure. Nor the supervisors and town officials who are co-ordinating them, and want nothing more than for every legitimate voter to breeze in and everyone else to go away. Litigation brings accusation of incompetence, discrimination, and any number of evils. Some of those people are corrupt or incompetent, and yes, we should do something about that. But most of them are volunteers who are on your side. By about 4pm, a lot of them are wondering “do you have a constitutional right to vote if you’re an a**hole? I think not!” I imagine that’s a bipartisan sentiment among the workers about then.

Go out of your way to be nice to the poll workers this Tuesday.

6 comments:

karrde said...

Well, I'm going to be a supervisor of such checkers at polling places next Tuesday.

Yes, everyone be nice.

Everyone be especially nice. (And I'd love it if every voter in the country presented ID, whether the law said that they had to or not...)

cns said...

As an election judge myself, I agree--I wish everyone out there would be nice. Fortunately my polling place has just a couple small, tight, nice precincts. I feel for those poor judges who have to ride herd in larger precincts...

bs king said...

As for thousands of lawyers standing by....my brother's dating the girl who's organizing this for Ohio. Five thousand of them to be exact (or rather, that was the goal, they have around 4,000). All trying to make a name for themselves and ensure they get a job in a future Obama administration, should it come to pass. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

(To note, a month ago, they started work when a Republican city clerk spoke at a college and told them all that if they registered to vote in Ohio, their parents would lose any tax credits they get related to their child, and none of them would be eligible for federal student aid....which was false. So I'm kind of scared on both sides, frankly.)

(Double side note: could you even imagine what would happen if Republicans had 5000 lawyers in one state managing polls on election day? I mean, press coverage-wise....)

ELC said...

"The Right blogosphere is reporting that the Democrats have thousands of lawyers on standby to quickly file protests for any election difficulties." That was said in 2004, also. IIRC, the number of such was pegged at 40,000. (Yep, that's what I remember.)

Assistant Village Idiot said...

bsking - I can see why the tax credit thing might be based on something true - one can make the argument that if you are a resident of a different state than your parents you might not be a dependent - but the student aid thing baffles me. Being federal, you would think it would be entirely portable.

I'd love to know more about the reasoning - or lack thereof - behind that one, if you have sources.

bs king said...

I'd call her to get more info, but my guess is she's busy right now :). Regardless, apparently the laws on registering to vote and losing your dependent status were pretty hazy, and my guess is the federal financial aid was something he said while getting carried away...or like a "you could lose your current federal funding" which would be technically true, because if your aid package changed, I'd imagine your funding wouldn't be exactly the same.

I was just wondering what Ohio law said specifically, since in states like Massachusetts, you don't have to be resident to get called for jury duty, and thus I know the difference between saying "resident of" and "primary residence" can be immense.