(Originally appeared on Medium)
(Update, April 8, 2016: The Sanders campaign is not contesting the Arizona results, even though over 20,000 provisional ballots were thrown out. [Arizona is a closed primary, and the ballots were submitted by people listed as independent, even though many voters claim the county had their registration wrong.]
However, Bernie’s election attorney “is instead considering a federal lawsuit challenging Maricopa County’s election practices, possibly partnering with other concerned groups.” In addition, The Department of Justice has launched an inquiry into whether the county violated voting rights laws.
Meanwhile, a petition to the White House for an Arizona revote is one of the four most popular petitions on whitehouse.gov.)
This is a call to action for all Writers for Bernie, official andunofficial. It’s a call to action for all writers, all speakers, all citizens who believe in our democracy.
Writers for Bernie came to be because we believe words matter, that truth matters, and that the more truth words hold, the more important they are. We support Bernie Sanders because we believe in his integrity and truth-telling. We believe truth should not be a rare commodity in civic life. We believe both leaders and citizens have an obligation to speak the truth as they see it.
The most important speech act a citizen in a democracy can perform is to vote. But during this primary season, and especially in the past few days, we’ve seen there is a real possibility that our speech acts as citizens — our votes — are being silenced.
In Tuesday’s Arizona primary, the voting process was chaotic. Lines to vote were miles and hours long. Registrations had been changed or lost, making citizens ineligible to vote. Winners of the race were called when literally thousands of people were still in line, and had not yet voted. The math of the vote reporting was mysterious and untenable.
But the situation in Arizona is just the latest in a long line of disturbing reports of possible election fraud, mismanagement, and/or disenfranchisement in many states, including but not limited to Iowa(alsohere); Michigan; Massachusetts; and Illinois, where this week courts blocked the late voting of thousands of voters who’d been unable to cast their vote when polling places ran out of ballots. In Washington, ahead of tomorrow’s caucus, there are already reports of caucus spaces that will be too small, with directions to turn away voters. Activists have called attention to exit poll discrepancies in numerous races. In addition, there are multiple anecdotal reports in many states with upcoming primaries of voters’ registrations being deleted or their affiliations changing.*
(A great deal of this disenfranchisement is due to the gutting of the Voting Rights Act. Bernie Sanders has called for its reinstatement.)
Voter disenfranchisement negates the very basis of our government and essentially strips people of their citizenship. It goes to the heart of our political system, and should be of the utmost importance to every single voter, regardless of party or political bent.
If the primary process ultimately proves to have been fair, if all these problems are explained and corrected, then we need to know. At the moment, there are far too many unanswered questions.
As writers, we are using the gifts we have been given — our “core competency” — to do all we can to support Bernie Sanders, and, as the need becomes increasingly clear, fairness and democracy itself. Writers, please write. Investigate, ask questions, write it down, share. Tell the world what you see. This is what we do.
No major national news outlets were reporting on the Arizona story at all until days after the primary. But it’s abundantly clear there is a story, and that maybe Arizona is one of many stories. As writers, then, we must tell them.
*Citizens in all states can check the status of their voter registration here.