Editor’s note: This commentary is by Bob Stannard, of Manchester, an author, musician and former lobbyist.
I live in Vermont; Manchester, Vermont, to be more precise. My wife and I voted a couple of days after receiving our ballot in the mail from our Secretary of State’s Office. We opened the envelope that was sent to us and then opened our ballot. Before filling out our respective ballots we very carefully read ALL of the instructions, the most important of which was to be sure you signed your ballot’s return envelope.
I have sat back and watched as the newly appointed loyalist to serve as the postmaster general has done everything in his power to disrupt the U.S. Postal Service before the elections. Not leaving my sacred vote to chance I decided to drive our ballots to the Manchester town clerk’s office. Anita Sheldon is our duly elected town clerk. If you’re a Manchester resident and have not yet stopped by this very friendly place to say “hi,” you owe it to yourself to do so.
It didn’t take long to see the extreme effort that our town clerk, and by extension the state of Vermont, is taking to ensure that voting here in Vermont is done right. Every single piece of printed information on how our voting process works is on display at the town clerk’s office. If you have any questions Anita and/or Laura Streiber will gladly assist you. I have little doubt that the same holds true for all of our town clerk’s offices statewide, but I can only speak on behalf of my own.
All American citizens are guaranteed to the right, and the privilege, to vote and to do so without fear of reprisal. It’s a known fact that the more convenient voting can be made for our citizens, the more people will vote. In Vermont you can register to vote on any day up to and including the day of the election. You do need proof that you are a Vermont resident. In addition, Vermonters have zero tolerance for voter intimidation at the polls. Candidates must keep their distance from the entrance to the voting locations or face expulsion. Vermonters just want to do their duty and not be harassed. As one who harassed voters on Election Day I know this firsthand. Some folks are happy to talk to you if you’re a candidate. Others, not so much. You better learn quickly how to tell them apart or you may get a stern tongue lashing.
Contrast what Vermont is doing to that of other states. America has two major political parties, Republican and Democrat. One party has fought hard for decades to guarantee that every eligible vote who wants to vote is able to vote. This party has strived to protect our citizens’ right to vote. The Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, the National Voter Registration Act and many other changes to the law to make voting easier were not easily won. It’s taken decades of hard work and perseverance to get to where we are today. It’s taken but a few years to watch those gains fall by the wayside.
The other political party has also fought very hard. Sadly, their misguided efforts focus on disenfranchising voters and discouraging them from voting. This is not news. Voter suppression has been the bane of our democracy since its inception. In the late 1800s and into the early 1900s voter suppression was orchestrated predominantly by Southern white Democrats who didn’t want blacks to vote. They were well aware that should those who they had held captive in slavery might very well, and rightly so, retaliate if the opportunity were to arise. The white Democrats needed to make sure that opportunity didn’t arise.
Over 100 years later, the roles are now reversed. It is the Republicans who are putting up roadblocks to, once again, discourage blacks from voting. We need only to look at what Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is doing: According to the Texas Tribune, “Under Abbott’s new order, counties like Harris, with 12 drop-off locations, and Travis, with four, can each have just one location. Given the opportunity to make it easier to vote in Texas’ 2020 general election, to leave the election process alone or to make it harder to vote, the governor chose the third option.”
This is just one of the dozen, if not hundreds of examples of what today’s Republican Party is doing to rig, yes rig, the 2020 elections. The president installed a lackey to disrupt mail-in voting so that he can declare that mail-in voting doesn’t work (only if he loses, of course. Should he win then there’s no problem).
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I’ve wondered for a long time why Americans have not expressed more outrage over the crimes of voter suppression that are happening in plain sight. Our elections are less than three weeks away and they’re being rigged by one of the candidates and his party. They know that the only way they can win today is to cheat, and cheat they will.
If only the nation could be more like Manchester, Vermont. Vote as if your country depends on you, because it does.