Monday, March 21, 2016

Amber Gets To Vote

Editor's note: Little did I know when I wrote about voter suppression in Ohio on March 15 that we would see such blatant voter suppression in the Arizona primary the following week. Here is a succinct article that explains what happened in Arizona's most populated county:

There are petitions circulating online demanding an investigation into the voter suppression/voter fraud which occurred in Arizona. Here are two links where you can sign:

Voter suppression isn't funny--it's downright ugly. It smacks of racism and discrimination against the poor and minorities, the young and disabled. Speak up and speak out about abuses in our elections! Sign the petitions and share the links with others.  The vote you save may be your own.

You can contact Arizona Governor Ducey About your concerns about   #ArizonaVoterFraud  at the link below:

Amber Gets to Vote
(This Woman is Bernie Strong)
words and photos by Cindy A. Matthews

After a long week of coordinating canvassers in your small Ohio city, heading to your local precinct on primary day to vote for Bernie Sanders is something you’d look forward to, isn’t it? So, imagine your frustration when once you arrive at your polling place you’re told you cannot vote because you don’t have proper ID so go on home and forget about it. This is Amber’s story.

Unfortunately, Amber’s story parallels other voters’ stories as well. Young and/or never-voted-before voters were actively discouraged to take part in the political process on March 15 in  North Carolina  and Ohio--and more than likely elsewhere.  (Read about Illinois' solution to ballot shortages.) The “political machines” of the two “major” parties don’t encourage big turnouts because lots of new and idealistic voters like Amber could lead to radical change in the established system. In other words, the two major parties teach their polling staffs to turn away anyone who doesn’t quite fit their mold. Amber, a young woman who hasn’t voted before, didn’t fit their mold. 

The story begins: When I returned to  Amber’s home with my turf sheets from canvassing, I noticed something amiss. Amber acted very sad and angry. Her boyfriend Chris said while he was able to vote Amber couldn’t because she didn’t have the proper ID according to the poll workers. Her driver’s license had expired, and she had only a medical bill to prove she lived in her new home since the utilities were still in her mother’s name. Amber did have her Social Security card and birth certificate, so she could prove she was a citizen, but the poll workers wouldn’t accept a non-utility bill as proof of residence. I asked Chris had the poll workers suggested Amber vote a provisional ballot instead? Chris said they hadn’t. I said we should contact the Ohio Secretary of State’s office for information.

Knowing that Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted had recently tried to deny the rights of 17 year old eligible voters to vote in the primary, I had a feeling his office wouldn’t be too helpful. They weren’t. Chris told me the person on the phone said, “Oh, well…” like the poll workers had earlier in the day. The polls would be closing within 90 minutes, so we didn’t have time to waste. I called one of the Bernie campaign organizers who had helped set up the canvassing in our area, and we got the number of a voter protection hotline staffed by volunteers

Chris made a quick call to the hotline and explained Amber’s situation. My thoughts were confirmed: Amber should be allowed to vote on a provisional ballot. She shouldn’t have been turned away. We piled into my car and drove back to Amber’s precinct. There we watched as she requested a provisional ballot and finally talked to a poll worker who was willing to give her one and show her how to mark it. Amber got to vote.

While this story has a satisfactory ending, the lessons we Bernie volunteers learned on primary day were clear: You should never take your voting rights for granted. Those in positions of authority can deny you your rights either at their own volition (they’re lazy or can’t be bothered) or because they were told to discourage new voters by their party officials. Chris said the people on the hotline were grateful he’d called back to tell them of the outcome of Amber’s situation. They'd heard from others in Ohio having difficulties voting, and Amber’s experience added to the growing body of evidence of deliberate voter suppression. 

I hate to think of all the others who were turned away at the polls on March 15 and at earlier primaries. How many of those discouraged voters were young or without a permanent address or without one of the usual forms of identification such as a driver’s license or utility bill? It's quite telling how some poll workers can’t be bothered to help new voters exercise their right to vote. No, these politically-motivated poll workers prefer to turn voters away. This behavior demonstrates just how little the rights of the 99% mean to establishment party politicians. They’re more concerned with their big-ticket corporate campaign contributors than their actual constituents.

More than ever, Amber’s experience at the polls demonstrates how much we need a political revolution. We need to make sure that voters like Amber are never turned away and discouraged from voting ever again. We need to elect a person who has ordinary voters’ rights in mind and not the rights of the corporate-owned, super PAC-dominated establishment. We need to elect Bernie Sanders--the candidate funded by ordinary people and not super PACs--as President of the United States.

Because every vote, every ballot counts--including a provisional one. Amber’s smile after she voted proves it.


Welcoming Bernie to the Glass City
photos by Adrian and Cindy Matthews

What happens when you get an email with less than 24 hours notice that Bernie Sanders is arriving in your area and volunteers are needed to help out at the rally? You drop literally everything and do whatever it takes and then some.

Here are some of our photos from  A Future to Believe In Rally at the SeaGate Center in downtown Toledo  on March 11, 2016. Even with such short notice, there was quite a turn out in the Glass City--an estimated 2400 people attended. We were treated to speeches from many great speakers including former Ohio state senator Nina Turner, Hawaii  Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Rep. Michael Futrell of Virginia and farm labor activist Baldemar Velasquez. And Toledo was the first to hear long-serving Ohio Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur's official endorsement of Bernie as the next President of the United States. The jam-packed convention hall roared its approval!

The lines started at the front door and went around the building...and then around the block and then around the next block. Everyone waited patiently.  We were blessed with mild weather with temps in the 50s, quite warm for Northwest Ohio in mid-March. The whole gamut of humanity was there--all colors, all creeds, young, old, families with kids and babies and a couple of protesters with "Socialism is Evil" signs across the street. I heard people went over and chatted friendly with them later that morning. I hope they were invited in to listen to Bernie's speech and learned more about what "democratic socialism" really means.

 The hall had quite a different lay-out to the previous rallies we attended at E.M.U. in Ypsilanti, Michigan, and Baldwin-Wallace University south of Cleveland, which were held in basketball arenas. The SeaGate Center is basically a big concrete box, and even as volunteers, you're not guaranteed a special place to sit or stand. After we'd helped take contact info from Berners standing in line and at the door, we squished into the hall and stood on the floor near the back. Seeing Bernie from a side angle across a mass of people (a lot of whom are taller than you are) takes some doing, but the acoustics and sound system in the hall were good, so we didn't miss a word of what any of our speakers said. 

I'm waving my sign for Bernie.
I'm glad we had a variety of speakers before Bernie talked, especially our own Kristin Robideaux (who runs the Toledo Bernie Sanders campaign office) and  Skip Angles, a UAW member who  worked at the now famous Autolite spark plug factory in Fostoria. NAFTA and other disastrous trade policies took a heavy toll on many NW Ohio communities such as Fostoria. From 1300 good-paying union jobs in the early 1990s to less than 70 jobs today, the Autolite facility has become practically empty as jobs and machinery were shipped off to Mexicali, Mexico. Poor Fostoria possesses the sad, resigned air of a town that once thrived but is now barely alive--and for how much longer? Bernie's message of putting American workers' jobs first before the billionaires' personal profits resonated well with Northwest Ohioans. Our corner of the state gave him a significant number of votes last Tuesday.

If you ever get a chance to help out at a Bernie rally, grab it. You won't regret it. Each of us is just one small cog in the machine that is the political revolution our country desperately needs if we want to live in a democracy and not under the power of the oligarchy. Bernie Sanders brings ordinary Americans together and preaches tolerance and compassion to all, as he says, "Love trumps hate." Compassion will be the order of the day when Bernie is in the White House. Government #OfThePeople, #ByThePeople and #ForThePeople will be restored once more.


Here's a story that I hope will inspire us all to become more active in phone-banking for Bernie. Tobey shows us how to get it done!

Sing along with the following song while you're promoting the political revolution. And remember all you voters in Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Washington, Hawai'i and Alaska this week--Vote Bernie, Be happy!


  1. Amber's story isn't unusual, unfortunately. In a country where the two main political parties have far too much say in the electoral process I think it's only to be expected.

    The UK has its Electoral Commission that is neutral and handles all elections, from those for local councils up to general elections and national referendum level. Every resident of a constituency gets a postcard with their electoral number and the location of their polling station. No pre-registering required, no membership of any party is needed. You take your card to the table, give it to the registrar, take your ballot slip, go into the booth and vote. Simple.

    The rallies we went to were all electrifying in the energy displayed. When Tulsi Gabbard was announced the cheer practically lifted the roof! So much energy, so much passion. Let's turn it into vote for Bernie Sanders and make him the President we need!

    1. That's an interesting insight into the UK electoral process. It's something the US seems behind on--making voting easy and accessible to ALL people who are eligible to vote.

      Tulsi Gabbard really was a great surprise, but then they kept bringing out more surprise speakers... Rep. Marcy Kaptur is the longest-serving woman in the Congress ever! When she endorses you, you know it's a good thing. :)


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