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Submitting to the votes of others

“So long as I do not firmly and irrevocably possess the right to vote I do not possess myself. I cannot make up my mind — it is made up for me. I cannot live as a democratic citizen, observing the laws I have helped to enact — I can only submit to the edict of others.”

— The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., May 17, 1957, Washington, D.C.

State Rep. Dwight Kay has taken up the cause for eliminating the East St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners. The cause he champions comes with a Cervantes-era lance and is likely lost before it is begun.

Still, it is one worth championing if for no other reason than to remind everyone of the issue. To borrow again from the Rev. King, “The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.”

There are 400,000 good reasons to eliminate the city’s election board. That is the cost to a city so poor that it cannot maintain street lights or enough police to patrol North 31st Street to save residents from living in a gangland shooting gallery.

The board’s executive director, Kandrise Mosby, said the residents would be losing a “convenience” were the board to go away. How so? Would there be fewer polling places or fewer voter registration opportunities?

We don’t buy that. This is all about control in the final moments of election night, when East St. Louis is chronically late with its tallies until after Democrats know just how many votes they need. This is a city where dozens are registered to vote at a burned-out shell, absentee ballots are cast by the fistful and the dead vote.

That is fraud, not convenience or self-determination or democracy.

There is an inherent racism to this separate but “equal” voting system. It will never be changed in Springfield, but we hope residents will one day listen to Matt Hawkins or the other city residents calling for a city in crisis to reject this extravagance that robs residents of their rights and dilutes the votes of the righteous.