“Any questions?” I asked my students after the first day of my Comparative Politics class, a course that is usually taken by first year students.
“Dr. Tures, is ‘The Purge’ likely to happen in our lifetime?” a student asked. Others laughed, and I shook my head. For those who don’t know, “The Purge” is a series of movies that began in 2013, soon to come to television, which depict a dystopian future where crime becomes “legal” for 24 hours. In this way, the population can be somewhat “purged” of criminals who might kill each other off. Of course, it also involves a number of deaths of lower class individuals unable to afford the fancy protections the elites have, so there’s a bit of economic Darwinism at play.
In 2016, one of these films was called “The Purge: Election Year.” Perhaps we aren’t witnessing the killing of these movies on our streets. But when it comes to our republic, and even our democracy via referenda at the ballot box, there’s an active attempt to purge many people from their rights to vote that the Founding Fathers and subsequent generations fought and bled to preserve, with troubling tactics that will soon affect you.
Exhibit A is the Non-Voting “Purge.” If a U.S. citizen fails to vote in several elections over a short period of time, he or she can be denied the right to vote. Supporters of this draconian policy claim it’s about “cleaning” up voting rolls, despite incredibly scant evidence that voter fraud is occurring at all, much less in this way. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito claims such a decision honors the 1993 Motor Voter Law, despite evidence provided by dissenters that such a purge clearly violates that very 1993 law.
Secretaries of State seeking political advantage are already reducing that non-voting time threshold to very short time frames, like three years. It’s a good thing former Vice-President Dick Cheney isn’t trying to vote this year. He skipped 14 of 16 elections in Texas, and was never denied the right to vote, much less run for office.
Exhibit B is the P.O. Box. In North Dakota, people whose address is a P.O. Box are being denied the right to register to vote because they don’t have a physical address. Never mind that Native Americans who are forced to have a P.O. Box for their address, are being knocked off the voting lists. There are millions of Americans who rely on these for their address for very legitimate reasons, and are likely to be blocked from voting.
Exhibit C is the polling place, and the DMV. Alabama drastically slashed the number of DMV offices, thus reducing the places people can get their license and voting registration. A Georgia county cut the number of voting precincts in disproportionately poor places, on the excuse that “disabled people can’t use these facilities” and therefore if disabled people can’t vote, nobody can, despite the availability of many places that are ADA accessible that can host a vote.
Before you get too supportive of these measures because you think they’ll help your party win, keep in mind that these affect U.S. veterans, working class voters of all races and ideologies, with tactics that would please the corrupt Mexican PRI party which dominated the country in a most authoritarian fashion. And as powerful political forces block U.S. citizens from voting, other states are likely to copy those tactics, one day “purging” you of your democratic rights.