Why don't voters vote?
In a recent guest commentary, former city and county official Paul Haney argued that laziness and apathy are among the chief causes of low voter turnout. Among the responses, reader Christopher Haydu suggested that measures like voter ID don't discourage voting. That discussion continues:
Voter ID's most certainly are an "issue." Who will pay to design them, provide an application process, verify applicant ID's, and manufacture and distribute them?
If Haydu is suggesting that taxes pay to provide them free to all voters, my fiscally conservative friends would balk at that. If he's suggesting that each voter pay for their own ID, then I know that financially struggling voters, mostly people of color, would be unable to do that.
What is a proven "non-issue" is voter fraud. Voter ID's is simply an attempt to keep some people from the polls!
I guess if you're white and have a job, a driver's license, a car, and a smart phone, then indeed it is easy to vote in America.
However, the poor and people of color have become the victims of systematic, deliberate racism designed to keep them from voting, with the emphasis in the South, where many vote Democratic.
Losing the right to vote because you're a convicted felon, mass incarceration, mandatory-minimum sentencing, purging of voter rolls, and rolling back the provision that states must inform the federal government of intended changes of their voting laws (part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965) are calculated Republican ways to suppress the vote.
In South Carolina, you must have either a South Carolina driver's license or a state-issued ID card to vote. To obtain an ID card you must pay a fee, present proof of residence, a valid birth certificate, a Social Security card, and a marriage certificate or proof of a name change if appropriate. It's not a click away on a computer. You must do it in person. Not easy if you're poor, rent a room from a family member, don't have a car or a computer, work long hours, and get paid in cash.
The Republican base is dwindling. The only way they can keep control is to either prevent or make it so difficult to vote that people give up. With the recent Supreme Court decision and the current make-up of that court and Congress, they are succeeding. Dismissing it as easy shows a lack of understanding of the New Jim Crow and what it means to live in America.
I am not convinced by Paul Haney's "when I was a boy" story of having to walk to school barefoot with the wind always in his face. Apathetic and lazy voters indeed.
Apathy is fueled in a large part by cynicism in the political process, the undemocratic practices of political parties, the culture of self-dealing by our representatives, the complacency of political leadership, and the spectacle of legislators wholly owned by monied interests.
Western New York Representative Chris Collins has been indicted for insider trading. The Office of Congressional Ethics had already found that there was a substantial reason to believe he had engaged in insider trading, but he had been considered a favorite for re-election due to the gerrymandering in state and federal legislative districts. The dean of Rochester's New York Assembly delegation, who is a double-dipper collecting a pension and a salary, is running for reelection in spite of being mostly a no-show in the Assembly.
Time and again, criminal conduct is exposed within state government. Elective office is the path to riches. Party rules are written and vigorous challenges mounted to protect incumbency and prevent other than the party designated-candidate from gaining access to the ballot.
Much of lower voter turnout can be laid to a lack of political leadership (maybe their apathy and laziness?). If more members of the city minority population were to get out and vote, our government would be much different and more responsive to their needs. How government treats its citizens is reflected in voter turnout. The City of Rochester administration in particular has over the last few years increasingly become less transparent and less responsive to the voices of its citizens.
Paul Haney by his own admission has spent his life in politics. I believe as an entrenched politician he and his cohorts share a big part of the blame for low voter turnout. Call voters disheartened, but not lazy.
EDWARD J. OLINGER
Schools and the public
Regarding Urban Journal's "What Do City Schools Have to Do With You?": It's true that the greater Rochester community bears responsibility for city schools, but it's too broad a pronunciation to actually provide some specific interventions.
If people who are concerned went to a city school closest to them and volunteered once a week to help a kindergarten child or a first, second, or third grader with reading or math, we would begin to see some changes in community understanding and personal connection. I would be more than happy to help people get started at my school.
Harrison is school psychologist at Rochester's School 16.
Everybody in Greater Rochester bears responsibility – not just parents with children in school, but also citizens who have good hearts and know that to make education equal we all need to help.
Contacting legislators and suburban school districts to open their arms to help is a start. Also we need to break up the concentration of poverty.
We can help children get a better future if we remember "they are us." The children are our future.
The money available for urban education is woefully below the levels of suburban schools, and children whose parents work two and sometimes three jobs to make ends meet lose precious time with their children. No time for trips to the zoo, or stories read or museums visited.
Volunteer in a city school. Read to a youngster. Become a mentor and give youngsters a chance to see beyond the borders of their neighborhood. Make friends with families who need a hand up, not a handout. See what help they would like.
My husband and I were able to connect with a kindergarten child who loved zoo trips and meals from McDonald's. We taught him that reading was fun, that memorizing could earn him money, that museums had great exhibits. We sponsored him for art lessons at the Memorial Art Gallery.
Today he's employed and will be turning 30 years old. He's a father and a good man. Imagine how many lives can be improved if one hundred people helped one hundred children to have hope.