UP TO 10 HOURS…. A friend of mine in Miami, M.G., waited in line for five hours the other day to vote. Her elderly mother wasn’t physically able to wait that long, but fortunately, M.G. was permitted to hold her place in line. Some senior citizens don’t have anyone willing or able to help in that capacity, and they’re forced to choose — endure extraordinarily long lines, which is a challenge even for young voters, or just go home, and not participate in the most important election in generations.
I’ve seen plenty of reports over the last week or so about how inspiring all of this is. And these reports are not without merit — for a country that is allegedly cynical and apathetic, there are untold thousands willing to endure painfully (literally) long lines just to cast a ballot.
But Rachel Maddow seems to be the only media figure calling this out for what it is: a poll tax.
That there are Americans who are told they have to wait in lines up to 10 hours is a genuine national disgrace, but what about those who want to cast a ballot, but simply don’t have the luxury of taking three or five or seven or 10 hours to stand in line? For some, their employers won’t tolerate that kind of break. For others, who get paid by the hour, it’s simply too expensive to give up that much time. For others still, it’s just not a physical option.
It is, as Ezra noted, “disenfranchisement in action. A longer line does not simply mean more people are voting. It means more people are not voting, as they could not afford the time tax.”
Voting problems in this country have reached the point at which they cannot be ignored. Voter-suppression tactics, electronic voting machines, and disjointed paper ballots are already areas of serious concern, but these ridiculously long lines should embarrass officials into action. It’s simply untenable that our democracy tries to function this way.