Register to vote

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 3, 2004

Anybody who tuned in to the televised debate Thursday night between President George W. Bush and Sen. John F. Kerry – and 62 million of us did – could not help but see the stark differences in their visions for the future of the United States.

While Thursday’s debate was on foreign policy, the candidates were on opposite ends of the spectrum on virtually every issue – Homeland security, the war in Iraq, dealing with allies and North Korean and Iranian nukes – And those are just the topics that were discussed. There are dozens of other foreign policy matters that will be addressed by the next president.

One can be relatively certain that similar differences will emerge when the focus of the debates turn to domestic affairs.

Email newsletter signup

With so much at stake and the electorate apparently so polarized, it’s almost unfathomable that someone will not cast a ballot in the November election for one candidate or the other, but that’s just what’s going to happen.

Barely a majority of us (likely in just a few states, but that’s another matter) will choose the next president.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Monday is the deadline for registering to vote in the general election and it’s imperative that we exercise this precious right, because if we don’t, we could lose it. And that’s not just a scare tactic.

Across the country, Americans’ right to vote for their leaders is under assault by sinister forces in positions of power who are doing whatever they can to keep people from voting.

In Florida – ground zero for much of the polarization in this country as a result of the disputed 2000 election – the New York Times has reported on an investigation of the state police for rousting and intimidating black organizers of voter drives in Orlando. Former President Jimmy Carter, who has observed elections in third world countries all over the world, said recently that Florida is not ready to conduct a fair election. Interestingly, the president claims war-torn Iraq is ready while the state run by his brother may not be.

This past week, the Times reported that in Ohio and Colorado, two battleground states, the secretaries of state have been interpreting the rules in ways that could prevent thousands of eligible Americans from voting.

Just weeks before the deadline to register, Kenneth Blackwell, Ohio’s secretary of state, instructed the state’s county boards of election to reject registrations on paper of less than 80-pound stock – the sort used for paperback-book covers and postcards, compared with the 20-to-24-pound stock in everyday use. He said he was concerned about forms’ being mailed without envelopes and mangled by postal equipment. But the directive applied to all registration forms, even those sent in an envelope or delivered by hand. Mr. Blackwell, a Republican, acted in the midst of an unprecedented state voter registration drive, which is signing up far more Democrats than Republicans.

In Colorado, Secretary of State Donetta Davidson, also a Republican, has issued a bizarre ruling. She will allow provisional ballots cast at the wrong polling places to count for only the presidential race. The Senate race in Colorado, among the closest in the nation, could determine control of the Senate, and there is no reason all valid provisional ballots should not count in this race or for statewide ballot propositions. Colorado Common Cause is challenging Ms. Davidson’s rule, but she should not need a court to tell her to count the votes.

Regardless of the motivation behind theses rulings, they threaten to disenfranchise large blocks of voters. That is something Americans cannot tolerate. Nowhere is our freedom expressed better than through the ballot box. If we are to spread democracy and freedom throughout world, then it’s vital that our elections be fair and open. Anything less damages our credibility in the eyes of the world, as well as our precious liberty.

The voter registration office in Suffolk is located behind the former Medicine Shoppe pharmacy on W. Washington Street, facing the Morgan Memorial Library across the parking lot. Please go there Monday and register and then exercise your greatest freedom on Nov. 2, while you still have it.