Letter to the Editor

Register and vote

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

I am a newcomer to being active in politics. Until 2016 I did nothing more than vote in the general elections. Since last year I have made it my business to help people with voter registration and work at the polls. There are reasons that some refuse to register and/or vote.

1) “It doesn’t make any difference who we elect.” Tell that to the descendants of slaves.  Tell that to the millions who were saved from starvation during the depression because of Franklin Roosevelt. Tell that to the millions of Jews, who were exterminated and millions more who died fighting WWII after the election of Hitler. 

2) “I don’t want to serve on jury duty.” As someone who has served on five juries, once in Weld County, Colo., three times here in Carroll County’s Western District and for 18 months on the Federal Grand Jury in Fort Smith, I get that. Although the courts are allowed to use other sources from which to select jury pools, honestly, they don’t. We, as voters, could change that.

3) “I was convicted of a crime.” In Arkansas, once you have served your sentence and/or parole your voting rights are automatically restored. Some states never allow you to vote again.

4)  “Too busy.” Arkansas does not make registration especially easy, no official voter registration drives, no convenient public displays of voter registration forms, no online registration, no publicity for registration. They do what they are legally required to do. We, as voters, could change that.  The secretary of state who is in charge of our elections is an elected official.

Voting is a right and not a privilege. There are those who would like us to think otherwise. Our own secretary of state, Mark Martin, is one of those. He has purged 40,000 voters since taking office. When the Presidential Commission on Election Integrity asked him for our voter registration information he was eager to send it. He insisted that that information is public. Yes, it is public information that costs $2.50 per voter record for anyone else to obtain. We are now required to show ID to vote also.

Gerrymandering, voter suppression and voter intimidation are nothing new and its effects have become glaringly clear. We can do something about it.  We can join groups that have always fought for voter rights. The ACLU and the League of Women Voters are two of the most venerable. Anyone can hold a voter registration drive; you can go door to door, you can get permission to hold a drive at a business, just pick up forms, both in English or Spanish, at your County Clerk office. The staff there will guide you on how to make the process more efficient. Make sure anyone you know is registered; 17-year-olds can register as long as they will turn 18 by the day of the election. During elections we can volunteer to transport people to the polls and even assist them in voting. We can register and we can vote for candidates who stand for true election reform that gets more citizens involved regardless of their party affiliation or political ideology through fair districting and voter encouragement. 

— Mark Eastburn