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Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2008 02:22 am

Stop voter-suppression drives

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Vote! Editorialists remind us that it's our privilege and patriotic duty to vote. Candidates of all stripes plead with us to vote. But not everyone is in the civic spirit. Rather than urging folks everywhere to join in America's festive democratic exercise, there are ugly and aggressive efforts across the land to harass, intimidate and outright block legitimate voters.

A tricky one called "vote caging" has appeared in Colorado, Florida, Michigan and Ohio. It involves a letter from the Republican National Committee that's been sent to households of older Democrats. Signed by John McCain, this first-class letter has "Do not forward" printed on the envelope. If recipients are having their mail forwarded to, say, a summer home, the RNC piece never reaches them. Instead, it goes back to the GOP. Here's the game: An undeliverable letter can be used later at a polling place on Election Day to challenge the eligibility of the voter, asserting that said voter does not really live in the precinct.

The Michigan Republican Party has threatened to use foreclosure lists to challenge the eligibility of people who're losing their homes, claiming they don't really live there. Just the threat will keep some of these hard-hit families from even trying to vote, for they'll think to themselves: "You know, I've got enough problems right now without this hassle, so forget it."

Then there are America's wounded veterans in Veterans Affairs hospitals. In a move that leaves me whopper-jawed, George W.'s secretary of Veterans Affairs issued an edict in May banning voter-registration drives inside VA facilities. For decades, nonpartisan groups routinely have been allowed inside so vets who served our country and suffered physical and mental harm could register. But now the Bushites have slammed democracy's door on them.

These tactics to keep people from the polls are disgraceful insults to our nation's proud democratic ideals. It should be easy to vote, and every vote should be encouraged. Easing the system and halting these nonsensical suppression efforts should be a priority of the next Congress.

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