Sunday, September 25 , 2016, 2:07 am | Fair 60º

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Jim Hightower: Bothering to Vote, and Bothering Voters

Two heroes emerged at the polls this year, and neither was named Barack or Mitt.

Their names are Galicia and Ken — ordinary Americans with extraordinary depths of civic spirit. While nearly 40 percent of eligible voters didn’t bother to cast their ballots this year, these two demonstrated that our democratic right to vote is not something to take lightly — especially at a time when Republican officials in several states are going to extremes to deny millions of citizens that right.

Galicia Malone, 21 years old, was making an urgent trip to the hospital Tuesday morning because she was about to give birth to her first child. Her water had broken, and her contractions were five minutes apart, so there was no time to waste.

Galicia points out that the opportunity to vote ought not be wasted — so, contractions be damned, she stopped at her polling place in a Chicago suburb and patiently went down the entire ballot, determined to be counted in her first presidential election.

Ignoring her pains, Galicia says: “I was just trying to read and breath. This is my first baby, a girl, and I wanted to make a good impression. I want to have a story to tell her.” Having proudly delivered her vote, she then drove herself to the hospital and delivered her baby. Now that’s a story!

Ken Knight of Buda, Texas, is another die-hard voter. Literally. Sadly, Ken died from cancer on Tuesday morning, Election Day. But, on the previous Friday, the last day of early voting, his wife and several friends lifted him, his wheelchair and two tanks of oxygen into a van and drove him to City Hall.

He was “hell-bent on voting,” Amy Knight says of her husband. “It was a driving force for him.” Her only regret was that she forgot to get an “I voted” sticker for Ken’s ride home.

So spare me any whines about voting being a pain or too much of a bother for you.

Not bothering to vote is deplorable, but preventing others from voting is both disgraceful and disgusting.

Yet voter suppression has become an acceptable, routine and widespread political tactic of Republican officials, operatives and funders. This year, the Vile Nasties of Suppression were in full howl in such key states as Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin, telling lies and twisting the rules to deter and obstruct minorities, the elderly, students, poor people and other likely Democratic voters from casting ballots.

For example, in October, 140 billboards strategically placed in inner-city neighborhoods of Ohio and Wisconsin screeched: “Voter Fraud Is a Felony!” They pictured a judge’s gavel slamming down, along with this Bogarting message: “3½ Years and $10,000 Fine.”

Subtle, huh? Anonymous, too — the ads had no disclosure of who paid for them. When told they would have to own up to their sponsorship of this gross voter intimidation, the shameful cowards chose instead to have the billboards taken down.

Well, they can run, but they can’t hide. The Einhorn Family Foundation of Milwaukee was behind the nastiness. Who’re they? Stephen, Nancy Daniel and David Einhorn are billionaire venture capital operators and hedge fund hucksters who use their foundation to back right-wing politicians and, as Nancy explains (with no evident irony in her voice), to “promote liberty.”

Then there are sorry public officials like Gov. Rick Scott of Florida, who abuse their power by rigging election rules to make voting hard-to-impossible for many Democrats. This hyper-partisan autocrat slashed the number of days for early voting almost in half, had thousands of unsuspecting voters purged from the rolls just weeks before the election and refused to alleviate nightmarish wait times of three to nine hours at some Democratic polling places.

“But,” declared this cynical scoundrel, “I want everybody to get out to vote.”

And I want political thugs like him to get out of the way of our democracy. To help shove them aside, connect with the Brennan Center for Justice by clicking here.

Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, writer, public speaker and author of Swim Against The Current: Even A Dead Fish Can Go With The Flow. Click here for more information, or click here to contact him.

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