Target: Karen Osborne, Maricopa County Director of Elections
Goal: Tell county that putting the wrong election date on Spanish language voter information forms is unacceptable
With the Presidential election looming, one of the most bitter, controversial, and impassioned battles surrounding this year’s elections has been voter fraud and voter suppression. Proponents of voter identification laws have advocated that such regulations keep the American electoral process honest, ensuring that only properly registered American citizens can vote. Opponents of voter-ID laws have made the argument that these regulations are nothing more than voter suppression, modern day Jim Crow laws that target minority voters. In Maricopa County, Arizona, it seems that the latter is true. The county distributed a final packet of voter forms, including a voter ID card, printed in both English and Spanish, to all citizens registered to vote in the November 6 election. There was only one hitch—the date on the Spanish voting forms was wrong.
Maricopa County has already come forth claiming that this was a horrific mistake. However, the question remains: exactly how did the mistake occur in the first place? The same line directly above it in English had the date correct. The Spanish line should have been an exact translation. The Maricopa County Elections Department claims that only a small number of residents received the erroneous documents.
The problem was caught early and has hopefully been mitigated, but it could have had disastrous consequences. Spanish-speaking voters could have easily been misled into believing that the election was on the wrong day and consequently not have had their voices heard. Whether or not this was an honest mistake or an act of malice does not matter. Minority voters could have been alienated (in what has turned out to be an ongoing trend this year). No matter what a citizen’s country of origin, all American votes deserve to be counted.
This is just another case of voter exclusion and suppression this year, and as usual it has targeted minority voters. This racism has no place anywhere, let alone in the voting process, one of the most valuable American institutions. Maricopa County, and voting districts across the nation, must be told that these “mistakes” are will not be tolerated and have no place in a democratic society.
Dear Director of Elections Osborne,
As you doubtlessly know, your county recently made a mistake on some voter information and identification forms that quickly rose to a very high profile. A number of the official documents given to voters had the wrong date for the Presidential election on them— but only in Spanish. Your office has been quick to control the damaging effects that these documents could have, and you should be commended for that. However, it does nothing to change the fact that such a heinous mistake was allowed to happen.
It is utterly inexcusable that Maricopa County would not tell Spanish-speaking voters the correct day of the election. Obviously that is a piece of information of the utmost importance; if you cannot be at a polling place on the correct day, you cannot vote, and if you cannot vote than your voice is not heard. The equal right to vote is one of the key tenets of the American Constitution. When your official government documents have the correct voting date in English but the incorrect date in Spanish it sends a clear message—it is more important for native English speakers to vote than for legal immigrants and naturalized citizens to vote. It does not matter if this was an intentional attack or an accident; it is something that could have negated Spanish-speaking citizens’ voting power.
All American citizens have the right to vote. It does not matter where they are from or what their financial background or heritage are. This mistake was an (hopefully unintentional) act of voter suppression, something that has been all too common this voting cycle. I am pleased to hear that you have taken hasty measures to ensure that this gaffe is corrected but it is unacceptable and undemocratic that it was allowed to happen at all. This is America, and all of our voices are supposed to be equal. Please take more care in the future and ensure that all of your county’s citizens are given the right to be heard.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Mrs. Gemstone via flickr