Right now, in Wisconsin, it’s illegal to ask your husband to drop your signed, sealed absentee ballot in the mailbox on his way to the store. It doesn’t matter that you asked him to because you’re too busy to go or because you have two broken legs and can’t get out of the La-Z-Boy in the living room. Either way, it’s a no-can-do.
You want to vote? Well, you better hobble on over there and do it your own self.
Yesterday, I went to a community meeting where voting rights advocates urged us to write letters to the editor urging that the state supreme court overturn this ruling.
Of course, I wrote one. I can’t resist an invite to write a grumpy letter. It’s one of my best things. But my indignation really tangled up my prose so I don’t think our local paper will run my letter. Still, it felt good to put my deep incredulity into more pedestrian words. All the polite ways we try to say “what the goddamn hell?”
The panelists at yesterday’s meeting laid out this voter suppression business in such a way that I finally really got it. Voter suppression is all about the whiff of trouble. A really good voter suppression game never lays a hand on people. It doesn’t have to. All that is needed is a couple, five, ten layers of rules, the last one with an asterisk that reminds people that violators could be charged with a felony.
Think of it. My old man, on his way to grocery, takes my mail-in ballot and drops it in the mailbox across from the store, someone gets a glimpse of the name on the ballot – Janice – a distinctly female name – takes a look at him with his 3-day beard and black hoodie and dials it in. Boom. He’s on his way to the slammer for ballot harvesting, that’s what they call it.
Who wants to take that chance, right?
Not the old guy who waits until the aide comes in the morning to help him maneuver to the bathroom.
Not the quadriplegic whose mother has helped him fill out his ballot and vote for the past twenty-five years.
Not the young woman with long Covid who can barely make it to the kitchen in the morning to get a bowl of cereal.
All you need here is a whiff of trouble, remember? That’s all it takes for a person who has a lot of other issues to deal with to decide it isn’t worth the risk to vote. The quadriplegic loves his mom and thinks, ‘man, I don’t want my mom going to jail for taking my ballot to the mailbox, screw it, I’m not going to vote. It’s not worth it.’
See how this voter suppression business works? Easy peasy. You set it up right and folks suppress themselves. How slick. I learned all about that yesterday.