So far, our family of five has stood in line, collectively, for five hours and 15 minutes in order to vote. That’s actually the total for four of us — my middle son is out-of-state for several months and will vote absentee.
That comes out to about an hour and 20 minutes each. I spent mine on a beautiful Saturday morning surrounded by agreeable folks equally committed to exercising their right to vote. Immediately ahead of me, a middle-aged couple graciously accepted every piece of campaign literature that was handed to them, and there was a lot! They chatted on and off with a mom and her two late-teen/early-20s children during our wait. Two women behind me who had never met before were warmly discussing their pets by the time we got into the building where voting was taking place.
I don’t write this to complain. In my lifetime, people have died to guarantee my family’s right to vote, so standing in brilliant October sun scanning the news on my phone hardly qualifies as a hardship. The poll workers were welcoming and helpful, thanking us for our patience and apologizing for a wait over which they had no control. And at my polling place, at least, there were no malicious hijinks — misleading signs or menacing “poll watchers” to interfere in the process.
Instead, I write this because as recently as this summer, the process would have been much more complicated. Had the courts not intervened against what has been described as the nation’s most repressive voter access law, the lines and the wait would certainly have been longer, and some folks would likely have opted not to vote. They would be those citizens with the least flexibility in terms of work schedules, child care, and transportation. Even the amount of time I waited would be a challenge for some, but I know it was better than it could have been.
So when anyone claims that voter id laws are meant to protect the process, they really mean to impede democracy. Making it harder for people to vote is wrong. You want to rig an election? Make voting impossible for those who absolutely have every right to cast their ballot. It all harkens back to the days when my husband, my boys, and I would have been subjected to poll taxes, literacy tests, and threats of telling our employers that we were acting uppity by trying to register. Such laws are intended only to protect the powerful who recognize that they might not remain in power if every qualified voter gets to speak.
By the time my oldest son voted on Sunday, the wait had started to shorten, but even where it doesn’t, that must not stand as a discouragement. Remember that without leadership by the NAACP, League of Women Voters, and others in challenging the efforts of some elected officials to curtail voting access, the process would be longer and infinitely more complicated. And without those throughout history who have stood for suffrage for women and people of color, many of us would not have the right to stand in line at all.
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