THROUGH THE FIRE: Democracy Means Voting

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By BILL WATANABE

When America was founded, the battle-cry was “No taxation without representation” and the new-born nation was birthed in the democratic concept of “one person, one vote.”

100 years ago, women in America won the right to vote! For us today, it’s hard to imagine that more than half of the adult population of the U.S. was not allowed to vote and be represented. The brave women, called “suffragists,” who pushed for the constitutional right to vote, conducted hundreds of public marches and parades, and occasionally faced violence and police arrest before the right was won through the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which passed on Aug. 26, 1920.

For nearly 100 years after the end of the Civil War, Black Americans faced extreme voter suppression in order to perpetuate the white power structure. Black people could be denied basic civil rights until courageous people led by the likes of MLK and John Lewis endured head-bashings, murder, and jail time when Congress finally passed the Voting Rights Act in 1965.

Under authoritarian governments around the world (many of which Trump seems to admire greatly), dictators proudly boast about winning 95% or even 100% of the votes cast in what are widely believed to be sham elections. Obviously these governments are NOT democracies and people’s votes are basically worthless.

And now in our country, having broad democratic participation in the upcoming elections this November is being threatened by the president because he believes letting people vote by mail will hurt his chances at re-election. Donald Trump has publicly proclaimed that letting people vote by mail will hurt Republicans and has embarked on a campaign of lies and distortion, claiming that mailed ballots are susceptible to widespread fraud although he never provides any proof or strong evidence that this is the case.

In fact, broad-based studies have shown the opposite, that mailed ballots (which have been conducted in many states for years and in fact have been used by Trump himself) has been devoid of any broad or mass defrauding efforts.

The post office is a government-sponsored public service (like the military and other government services) and was never meant to be a break-even or profit-making business. It has prided itself on delivering the mail safely and inexpensively but requires government financial support to continue efficient operations. Trump is seeking to defund the post office so that it cannot serve the public efficiently and thereby improve his political future.

The postmaster general, a recent appointee and Trump loyalist, has already worked to undermine the efficiency of postal service (my Rafu Shimpo delivery is always late nowadays).

We rely on the post office for delivering promptly Social Security checks, personal letters, medicines, and other important documents. During the Christmas holidays, the post office handles 1.3 billion Christmas cards – ten times more than the 130 million ballots that might be cast for the November elections!

Please do one thing this month to help save our postal service – use the post office and mail a hand-written letter to the president and give him this simple one-paragraph message: “Dear Mr. President: Please stop complaining about problems with mail-in ballots and the post office! Be a leader and fund the post office and fix the problems so that all Americans who wish to vote by mail can do so!” You can add a “Thank you” and give your name and address – and then wait for a reply.

Do this now – too many Americans faced violent opposition in the past to fight for the right to vote. We can do this simple thing to help protect that right!

P.S.: If you send a letter, you can let me know and I thank you in advance!

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Bill Watanabe writes from Silverlake near downtown Los Angeles and can be contacted at [email protected] Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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