The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Politicians know how to stop voters

Jan 21, 2008

In mid-January, the director of Citizenship and Immigration Services, a Bush appointee, told Congress that his agency would need an average of 18 months to process petitions for citizenship. His agency used to take seven months per application.

It will take so much longer to become a citizen that most of those who already applied for citizenship won’t be able to vote in the 2008 election. Just a coincidence?

In recent elections, Latino immigrants have begun to turn more toward the Democratic Party. Apparently, the Republican administration has found the perfect way to prevent a few million more votes for their rivals in the coming elections.

But it’s hardly the first time the politicians have played around with who can vote. The methods by which the ruling class and its political spokesmen have prevented poorer people in the United States from voting are many and varied, and not restricted only to the Republicans.

The solid Democratic South, following the Civil War and Reconstruction, prevented black people and poor whites from voting. The Democratic Party put in place the Jim Crow laws, restricting many rights, among them the right to vote.

In Mississippi in the 1870s, more than 70% of all adult males, black and white, had voted. And most voted Republican, the party of Lincoln. But by the early 20th century, the voting population had dwindled to 15%. The Southern Democrats had found a way to stay in power.

The Northern Republicans also found ways to restrict voting. After bitter working class struggles in the recession of the 1870s, Republicans pushed through laws to limit voting rights. They restricted so-called “vagrants” or “paupers” from voting. New York state put through a law to restrict voting by means of a literacy requirement.

So both parties have found ways to prevent the poor from voting, even though it is a right in this so-called democracy. Today voting is restricted by requiring more and more paper work to prove one’s identity. Such documentation is hardest on the poorest voters.

Restrictions on citizenship prevent some people from voting, even though they work and pay taxes. Other voting restrictions are placed on those who have completely finished serving their time in prison and on parole.

In the U.S. political system, winner takes all – so long as the winner – whether Democrat or Republican – doesn’t represent the interests of the laboring population.