Voting bans, other hurdles tarnish U.S. democracy

A few weeks ago, Florida officials were forced to throw out a list that banned several thousand voters (due to previous felonies they had supposedly committed) from casting their ballot in the presidential election. It was proven that a large part of the people whose names were listed had every right to vote.

A similar list erroneously banned thousands from voting in the 2000 presidential election. One would expect officials to learn from past mistakes, yet other lists blocking millions of voters are still in effect in the upcoming election.

This, as well as other hurdles voters must overcome, makes it questionable whether the United States’ democracy is truly working the way it should.

According to Reuters, civil rights experts estimate that millions of U.S. citizens, including a disproportionate number of black voters who traditionally vote for the Democratic Party, will be blocked from voting in the upcoming presidential election. Reuters writes this is due to “legal barriers, faulty procedures or dirty tricks.”

In an unrelated incident, the International Herald Tribune reported Monday that the Web site designed to allow Americans abroad to request absentee ballots through the Federal Voting Assistance Program was blocked in 25 countries. An e-mail sent by the programs manager to a U.S. citizen complaining about the inaccessibility of the Web site said the block had been imposed due to “users constantly attempting to hack these sites.” It further said, “We do not expect the block to be lifted.”

To offer such a Web site and then block it to those who need it most seems more than illogical.

Speaking to, an anonymous Defense Department voting official stationed in Europe said, “This is a completely partisan thing.” She, and many critics writing in papers and weblogs about the ban, questioned whether it was intended to make it harder for military personnel stationed abroad to vote and whether this is a ploy to help President George W. Bush’s re-election efforts, as he may no longer be popular with the troops abroad.

It may or may not be a fact that partisan tampering is behind the blocks and lists. But the fact alone that citizens abroad as well as stateside are wondering if there are intentions like this behind such bans show that something is wrong with the system.

For the United States to lobby for the proliferation of democracy throughout the world but to be seemingly unable to ensure it at home is not only ironic, it undermines any such efforts.