Published 21-09-2012, 13:15
political analyst for the Voice of Russia radio station
Ironically, as the presidential election in the United States nears, concerns raised by civil society groups about the election’s fairness and integrity are starting to mirror concerns routinely raised by Western-supported civil society groups in Russia.
Ballot box stuffing, busing around from one polling station to another of suspiciously looking groups of people, strange things happening during early voting – you name it. Interestingly, the same "political technologies” that the United States suspected Russia or Belarus of using are now used in the US – and the American press reports it, albeit with less fanfare than when reporting similar irregularities in the former Soviet Union.
The New York Times, for example, citing True the Vote, a citizens’ group focusing on combating election fraud, reported there were several buses "carrying dozens of voters showing up at polling stations during the recent Wisconsin election.”
"Magically, all of them needed to register and vote at the same time,” the group’s leader, Catherine Engelbrecht, said, addressing her supporters from True the Vote. "Do you think maybe they registered falsely under false pretenses? Probably so.” Another activist of True the Vote told a meeting of conservative activists that her colleagues saw a bus during a recent vote in San Diego that was unloading "organized” voters "who did not appear to be from this country.”
Sounds familiar? What about a report of the Pew Center on the States which was issued in February this year and which found out that more than 1.8 million dead people remained on voter rolls and that about 2.8 million people were registered in more than one state? These figures look actually more impressive than all the Russian opposition’s reports on irregularities during the Russian presidential election in March this year, which state secretary Hillary Clinton considered big enough to name our elections "neither free nor fair” one day after the vote. Moreover, opposition reported massive fraud during absentee voting and dead people on voter rolls, but not in millions. In the United States the matter actually concerns TENS OF MILLIONS: 12 million registrations contained flawed addresses, the report by the Pew Center said.
Facing such irregularities (some would say, outright fraud) Americans want more controls over the election’s fairness. This is the cause for the controversy around voter registration IDs. Republicans have been pushing for the adoption of new laws that would require voters to have a valid picture ID on them. Democrats, on their side, accuse the GOP of trying to disenfranchise the poor voters, as well as ethnic minorities, which are more likely to vote Democratic than WASPs with excellent IDs.
In recent years, 11 states passed voter ID requirements, thus impairing the old American freedom of not having to carry a passport inside your own country. The Supreme Court struck down several such laws on voter IDs as discriminatory or carrying risks of "voter disenfranchisement.”
On the Voice of Russia we had interviews with a courageous author of a whole book on voter suppression during the 2012 election – Alfred Santangelo. According to Mr. Santangelo, there are some states in the US where voters have to travel hundreds of miles to get a valid voter ID. He sees it as a part of a larger voter suppression policy, denounced by the American Civil Liberties’ Union (ACLU) and widely blamed for the defeats of Democratic candidates Al Gore and John Kerry in the years 2000 and 2004.
In 2012, ironically, it is the rightist part of the political spectrum that accuses the authorities of tampering with the vote’s results. Ms. Engelbrecht’s True the Vote group grew out of a Tea Party’s support association, King Street Patriots. Now, as the New York Times claims, there is a "variety of well-financed organizations, many unabashed in their desire to defeat President Obama.”
Just recently we saw in Russia a much bigger number of better financed organizations unabashed in their desire to see the defeat of Russia’s current president Vladimir Putin. But, somehow, even mentioning this fact was considered a sign of "bad taste” in the mainstream Western press. Obviously, the press worldwide has greater problems reporting such things closer to home than at some distant shores.