Do all votes count?

Ballot recounts are underway in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

No matter the ultimate numbers, the fact is the recount efforts have uncovered anomalies, not only in the counts, but the rules by which states, counties and precincts handle ballots and tally votes. This examination illuminates the sometimes strange and disparate methods.

Michigan, for example, will not recount votes if the number of ballots in the ballot box differs from the number of votes tallied on the computerized poll book. In one precinct, Rochester Hills 11 in Oakland County, the difference was one ballot. This should trigger a recount based solely on an error.

Beyond the actual tally of votes, the ways in which people are allowed to vote varies drastically since the demise of the Voting Rights Act. Some states have cut back on hours and days of voting, closing the polls on Sunday, for instance. Some have axed the number of polling places, leaving people with long lines to battle at the few remaining sites before they even cast a vote.

The result of these actions has been voter suppression. The states haven’t disallowed people the right to vote, just made is so difficult that many give up.

By one estimate, some 300,000 voters were suppressed in Wisconsin because they didn’t have a current proper picture identification, primarily a driver’s license or identity card from the DMV. This disenfranchises those who don’t drive — or who’ve given it up. Seniors are particularly hard hit with this requirement. I know several seniors who’ve stopped driving and let their licenses lapse. “After all,” they reason, “I don’t drive any more, why go through all the trouble to get a picture ID at the DMV?”

Whatever the technique for suppressing votes from the populace, these requirements didn’t just spring forth. After all, millions of people in Wisconsin were able to present the appropriate documents and vote.

What’s needed is a concerted effort by the parties to ensure their supporters are prepared, regardless of the arcane rules.

In the case of Wisconsin, there’s an assumption that many of those 300,000 people would have voted for a Democrat. Who knows where the truth of this lies, but what is known is that these people weren’t told or didn’t understand what they’d need when they showed up at the polling place.

If the Democrats want to make a difference, spending millions on glossy television ads isn’t as effective as reaching out to people in their homes, their churches, their community centers, their shopping centers, their schools and educating them on the requirements their state has put on the ability to vote. The Democrats pretty much know who’s registered so reaching out with an explanation of requirements and offers to help them meet the requirement (making an appointment with the DMV to get their ID, giving them a ride) could ensure that these voters aren’t turned away at the polls.

And once they’ve met the requirement, asking “Do you need a ride to the polls?” will make sure their voice is heard.

I realize that I’m from the late 60s and believe in community organizing. The people who spent time and effort to get voters registered, the Freedom Riders and the marches throughout the south made change happen against odds even higher than today’s.

Reaching out on the personal level requires effort and commitment, but makes things happen. If you live in a state that’s established barriers to voting, learn what these are, lobby your state legislature to change them, lobby Congress to re-instate some form of the Voting Right Act. It’s a long, hard slog.

As the 60s said, “Don’t agonize, organize.” I thought I’d only have to do this once in my lifetime.

Michele Drier is retired from daily print media and is a full-time mystery novel author working on her 13th book. See her at or