Metro Weekly co-publisher Sean Bugg has a good, angry piece up about how he was taking a young, gay and undocumented friend to an appointment with an immigration lawyer, when the young man said, ”Some of my friends told me they’re not going to vote, they don’t think Obama’s done enough.” Bugg explains that President Obama supports the DREAM Act and marriage equality while Mitt Romney wants undocumented people to “self-deport” and favors a constitutional amendment banning equal marriage rights. He concludes:
Choosing not to vote — and flaunting that choice in front of a person who has far more to lose in this election than you ever will — is a selfish and small act. You have a total of 364 other days in 2012 to focus on your fabulous self; you can take part of the day on Nov. 6 to get out and vote. Who knows? If in a few years we find ourselves more equal as LGBT people, you may even discover there actually was something in it for you after all.
But there’s an even larger problem than self-centered gay Ostriches: voter frustration. During an interview for the upcoming Election issue of Frontiers magazine, I interviewed openly gay California Assembly Speaker John A. Perez and got a glimpse at the extent to which the Republican voter ID message has infiltrated the consciousness of America. In California, a state where it is illegal to ask for voter ID, Speaker Perez – the third most powerful person in state government – was asked for his ID when he went to vote in the June Primary. He described what happened:
In California – we don’t have voter ID laws. It’s illegal to ask for an ID in California. But when I went to go vote in June, they asked me for an ID. So I go to my polling location and there was a new poll worker. I gave her my name and address. And she says, ‘May I see your ID?’ And I said, ‘No.’ She said, ‘Do you have your sample ballot with you?’ I said, ‘No, I don’t. Here’s my address, here’s my name.’ And she said, ‘Well, if you don’t have your sample ballot, I need your ID.’ I said, ‘Actually, you don’t need my ID, you just need to check my name and make sure it matches with my address.’ And she said, ‘Well, sir – do you have an ID.’ I said, ‘Yes, I have one.’ She said, ‘Well then why won’t you give it to me?’ I said, ‘Because you’re not allowed to ask for it.’ Finally another poll worker came over and said, ‘You know, he’s right. You can’t ask for an ID.’
Did I have an ID? Absolutely. But that’s not the point. The point is that in so many place it’s been used as a way to keep people from being able to vote. And [because they’ve been so successful with messaging] you have people who’ve been turned away here, even though it’s not a requirement.
Turned away here, in California. Now many might think voter ID laws are particular to Latinos, especially after the Advancement Project’s new report about the impact of the voter ID and voter suppression effort in that community. Or that this is only relevant to African American voters, for whom voting rights is an historical cause. And of course, there’s the incredible impact on transgender voters, as Melissa Harris-Perry noted to the Washington Blade.(98 year old Ovarie Smith, center in white, was honored by the LA County Democratic Club Sept. 23. Assembly Speaker John A. Perez is second from left, Rep. Maxine Waters is holding Ovarie Smith, next to openly gay LA County Democratic Party Chair Eric Bauman. Smith’s message: “Vote!” Photo by Karen Ocamb)
But what Perez’s story indicates is that this is a far wider problem than the disenfranchisement of minorities. Even in states with no voter ID laws or overt efforts at voter suppression – the Republicans have been so successful in pushing their message, so-called “low-information” voters of all stripes could be easily deterred from voting by just being asked for an ID that one doesn’t need and doesn’t have to present. In the Frontiers interview, Perez said:
The Republican path to victory is based on people NOT voting. It’s not about convincing people, it about frustrating people. So when you look at their strategy for governing, it speaks to that same concept that if they can’t get their way, then frustrating anybody else from getting theirs is a good outcome. That obstructionism is a goal in and of itself because if you can obstruct, you can create frustration. If you can create frustration, you can decrease people’s level of optimism and you can undermine their desire to be engaged and vote.
Asked about the national and swing state polls show Obama with an increasing lead over Romney, Perez said:
I like the direction but you can never take any outcomes for granted. And so even if the direction continues to be positive in terms of polls – nothing matters until everybody votes.
You can register to vote online in California until Oct. 22.