This won't be a political post, that will come tomorrow. This is a post about voting rights and voting laws. Now I'm originally from Maine. It's generally a rather liberal state more often than not, especially in terms of social programs. I am now living in Alabama (hopefully this was obvious by the name of the blog) and from what I have gathered since moving down here two years ago, Alabama considers itself to be a very conservative state. There have been a few stark differences between Alabama and Maine in terms of voting laws that have seriously concerned me. I am no voting laws expert, but these are just my observations. I am not going to compare voting laws in every state, just the two I have had personal experience with.
Now in Maine, you can register to vote at the polling place on Election day with no issues and no hassle. Photo ID and proof of residence to register to vote, but no ID is required to actually vote. Whenever I voted, everyone was quite nice and helpful. I never felt rushed or pressure in any way. The rules aren't necessarily looser in Maine, they are just designed to help people vote. You can find all of Maine's voting laws here. There is one in particular that stood out to me. According to the State of Maine, "I may not be harassed when voting or be pressured about how to vote. 21-A MRSA §§672 and 682". I most certainly feel that this is a vital component of voting laws and of Democracy as a whole. There is nothing more important than access to voting in order to support a Democracy. You cannot expect a Democracy to survive as such if any segment, no matter how small or large, is disenfranchised form voting. I feel that Maine does a good job in attempting to assist voters in accessing their polling places and any and all voter applicable voter information.
I have found Alabama to be very different, however. It seems that large segments of the population are disenfranchised, though that may just be my perception. I don't know how wide spread the polling locations are; I'm hoping there aren't massive lines to vote tomorrow. I'll let you know how it goes after I vote. The biggest issue I have I discovered while reading through the Alabama Voter Guide for 2012, available here. Everyone reads and makes decisions at their own pace, some quite fast, like myself, and some quite slow, for a whole variety of reasons. In Alabama, there is a time limit on how long a person can be in a voting booth or at a voting machine. The sample ballot for the county I am in is two pages long. I can read that in much less than a minute, but someone with dyslexia or poor vision may have a great deal of trouble reading the ballot in a short period of time, let alone make decisions and enter their decision, either on a paper ballot or the voting machine. In Alabama, voters are only alloted a total of five (5) minutes in a voting booth to make and enter their decisions. If you don't believe me, look at the section called "Time in the Booth" on page 9 of the Alabama Voter Guide for 2012. I cannot imagine anyone being able to make an informed decision on something of this magnitude in five minutes, especially if they haven't had the chance to look up the ballot ahead of time, which is absolutely plausible if someone works two jobs, which is very common down here. I can not imagine being rushed out of the voting booth in five minutes and I read incredibly fast. I have no idea if this is constitutional, but I hardly think that it's fair. I think it's just another way to disenfranchise voters, especially the uneducated and poorly literate. Everyone needs to be able to vote, regardless of their abilities.
So this is my question, if someone is in a voting booth or at a voting machine and they are clearly engaged in the act of voting, is it acceptable to put a time limit on a right given to us by the Constitution of these United States?? Can you, in good conscience, tell someone they only have five minutes or twenty five minutes to make a decision that will impact the future of this great country?? Please provide your answer in a comment with any additional opinions. I really want to see how other people view this. And do me a huge favor... No matter your preferences, your beliefs, your politics, VOTE. It is as much your right as your responsibility. This country was founded on Democracy, on the voice of the people. If we don't exercise our voice, then what is the point of having one?