Friday, October 31, 2008

Are Long Waits to Vote the Equivalent of a Poll Tax

Poll taxes have been illegal for a long time. But this evening, I heard MSNBC's Rachel Maddow suggest that long lines that force people to wait for hours to vote is the modern equivalent of a poll tax. How's that, you ask? Simple. Many professionals can afford to take off half a day (or more) to wait in line to vote. Stay at home moms and the retired can afford to spend the day at the polls. But can workers earning an hourly wage, often with unsympathetic employers, take off half a day, probably without pay, just to vote? It won't cost me anything to take time off to vote. I can work extra hours another time to make up billings lost while waiting in line (heck, I can probably even do some work while I wait in line). But the single mom who works two jobs just to feed her kids and pay her bills probably can't afford to miss a day (or even half a day) of work. So, if she can't take time to vote because it will be too costly, then those lines are, in effect, no different than a poll tax. That is wrong. That is not what our democracy should be about.

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