M.S. Bellows, Jr. for HuffingtonPost.com
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The perennial issues of vote fraud and voter suppression are becoming front-page news as several states conduct early voting and as Election Day itself nears. The candidates themselves will continue to stump, trying to win votes in contested states, but after tonight’s final debate, the parties will focus less on persuading undecided voters and instead put more and more energy into “get out the vote” or “GOTV” efforts or, more ominously, into “voter suppression” efforts, which discourage or bar the other side’s likely voters from casting ballots.
GOTV includes simple acts like helping homebound voters obtain and cast absentee ballots or driving voters who don’t have cars to the polls on Election Day. More broadly, the concept also can include all kinds of efforts to increase voter turnout: voter registration drives, websites that help voters confirm that they’re still registered in time to fix any problems (one good, nonpartisan example is the National Association of Secretaries of State’s CanIVote.org), and public service announcements reminding voters that Election Day is approaching.
Voter suppression practices are the flip side of such efforts. Suppression efforts can appear innocuous, such as requiring voters to show photo I.D.s – a requirement that excludes a surprising number of poor, minority, very young and very old voters and kept several elderly nuns from voting in Indiana’s Democratic primary this year. Suppression can pose as false righteousness, such as Fox News’s 342 negative mentions of a single voter-registration group in just four days (casting the group’s efforts to register underrepresented demographics as a threat to democracy, and frightening voters registered by that group into thinking that their registrations might be unlawful), or the past Republican practice of stationing armed, uniformed “Ballot Integrity” personnel in minority polling places (again, tamping down turnout).