The Purges: A Cautionary Tale for National Voter Registration Day

Today is National Voter Registration Day and Common Cause makes it easy to verify your vote and register if you need to. Even if you don't need to, here is why you should, and why you should share this Democracy Wire post on Facebook and Twitter urging your friends to do the same.

You are a proud voter. Maybe you even have little rituals, for example, I like voting on Election Day and walking to my polling place. There is something about the walk, passing other people, their homes, businesses, and realizing that each of us has a say in our future. Even when I walk past the house of someone who has a sign for a candidate or initiative I don’t support, I smile. Every voice matters, every vote counts — even those who don’t always see eye-to-eye with us.

After a few minutes in a line, I say hello to the election officials I recognize from the last election as they search their

registration books for my name.

“Did you move?” Mabel asks. She’s checked me in for three cycles in a row and remembers me because I told her that Mabel was also my grandmother’s name the first time she checked me in. Glancing around the recreation center gymnasium I chuckle at the scoreboard: “Home 20, Visitors 18.”

” … or change your name?” she asks softly.

“No ma’am, is there a problem?” I ask.

Mabel calls over a supervisor, “I know this young man, I’ve checked him, he always votes.” I suppose everyone is young to Mabel, but at 55 it’s almost comical to hear.

“Provisional. Only option,” the man says with a curtness that cuts against the neighborly celebration of democracy that voting is.

Mabel shakes her head, “The Purges,” she says under her breath. She hands me a provisional ballot.

“What, did you say, ‘purge?'” I ask.

“They pulled a lot of our voters off the rolls, you know,” she glances at partisan monitors challenging voters aggressively and busies herself quickly concerned she’s already said too much, or that they might try to kick her out too. She shakes  her head in that “things ain’t what they used to be” way.

“So, I can vote, right?” I ask as I look over the provisional ballot.

“It won’t count unless a race is close …” she says looking to the next woman in line, “and we can verify you should be registered.”

“But I vote in every election,” I say a little louder. The woman behind me steps up and before giving Mabel her name says to me, “Un-huh, but you live in the wrong part of town. Too many of us voting for one party over here so the election officials trying to tamp down the vote here to give fewer voters in other parts of town more say. It’s been in all the papers, and not just here; Kansas, Ohio, Georgia … lots of states.”

This story is a work of fiction except for two things that are true:

  1. My dearly-departed grandmother’s name was Mabel and she often worked elections back home.
  2. This scene will play itself out in several states in the 2018 Election. Hundreds of thousands of voters have been purged from voter rolls in several states, mostly by partisan ideologues who are using laws intended to clean-up voter rolls to aggressively manipulate the system and give their party an advantage. It’s wrong, but so far they’re getting away with it.

Don’t let this become your story in 2018.

These Common Cause Voting Tools make it super easy and all about you, the voter:

  1. Verify you are registered to vote even if you vote in every election, haven’t moved, haven’t gotten married, divorced, or for any other reason changed your name.
  2. If you cannot verify your vote, then you can register to vote.
  3. Once you have verified you are registered or register to vote, do your family and friends the favor of reminding them to make sure they are eligible to vote.
  4. Sign up for reminders about elections, too!
  5. Or if you will be away, request an absentee ballot.

Many Americans have been motivated to engage in politics for a variety of reasons in the last two years. Many will be voting for the first time or the first time in many years. Help make sure that every voice is heard and every vote counted as cast. Please share this Democracy Wire post today and wish everyone you know a Happy National Voter Registration Day!

Then, to find out if you are voting for people who support strengthening ALL the people’s voices in our democracy, or for someone who only thinks certain types of people should vote, check out Our Democracy 2018, put in your address, find out who is running in your area, and get candidates on record on their views about our democracy.

Elections really are all about us – voters, we the people, our neighbors, our community, our country, and yes, Our Democracy.