Emil Guillermo: Green light for doubting voters--FBI clears Clinton, Trump goes back to rigged talk; Remember Mallika Das on Election Day

November 7, 2016 12:36 PM

As an early bird, my vote is in the mail.

If you haven't voted yet, vote now.

Now is always the best candidate.

Better than later.

And maybe that's what finally got to FBI Director James Comey when he gave everyone his November surprise.

He's not the patron saint of voter suppression or election tampering that everyone might think he is. .

If you were turned off to this whole electoral democracy thing because of the FBI director's initial letter to Congress Oct. 28 announcing a renewed investigation into the Clinton email saga, you can come out of your weekend football stupor with renewed faith.

On Sunday, Comey decided he'd better tell us all now, that, uh, he's making a U-turn.

"Based on our review, we have not changed our conclusion that we expressed in July with respect to Secretary Clinton," Comey said in his latest letter to Congress, essentially affirming the clearance he gave Clinton over the matter in the summer.

He's still not getting an invite to the Clintons for Thanksgiving.

But maybe now Trump will change his walk-up rally song from the Rolling Stones, "You Can't Always Get What You Want," to that Boy George song with the refrain, "Comey, Comey, Comey Comey, Comey chameleon." That Comey does come and go, doesn't he?

Trump's already taken a U-turn himself from "maybe the system's not rigged after all" to "You can't review 650,000 emails in 8 days." 

Not by hand. 

But this is the digital age, with software rapidly scanning a single Weiner laptop for duplicate emails. 

So where were we--heading to the polls?

Mallika Das, protector of limited English proficient voters and voting rights hero
As Asian Americans, I hope as you mark your ballots you keep Mallika Das in mind. 

mallikadas.jpg

Das, an Asian American of Indian descent, lived outside Austin, Texas in Williamson County's Round Rock. 

In 2014, she went to vote in the Texas midterm elections, the one that featured a contentious open gubernatorial race between Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott and Democrat Wendy Davis.

But the ballot also featured a state proposition and other items requiring a little more time and understanding.

Das showed up to the polls with her son, Saurabh.

MallikaSaurabhDas.jpg

"She understands English and could read, but doesn't understand to a very high level," her son Saurabh, a 41-year old computer specialist, told me over the phone. "Which is why she would normally ask me to translate."

But on that day, the election officials at the polling place refused to let Saurabh help his mother, citing a Texas law that said to interpret, Saurabh had to reside in the county. 

Saurabh lived in neighboring Travis County.

"This is the rule, you can't help, [they said], which seemed immediately suspect to me," said Saurabh Das. "I was angry that this had happened."

Mallika Das did vote, but without the help she needed. She mentioned to Saurabh she may have voted for the wrong things. 

She eventually became a plaintiff in a lawsuit filed by AALDEF on behalf of the Organization of Chinese Americans of Greater Houston.

The suit argued that the Texas election law was an arbitrary restriction on the right to vote.

Here's how absurd the law was. Had Saurabh Das said he wanted to "assist" his mom, he could have done that within the law (as long as he wasn't an employer or a union rep).  

But simply by saying the word "interpreter" triggered the residency requirement.

Mallika Das and her son didn't know the magic words to make democracy work in Texas for those with limited English.

Last August, U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman sided with Das and said the law was a violation of the Voting Rights Act.

Limited English proficient voters throughout Texas can now be assured they get the help they need to vote.

The decision came just days after what would have been Mallika Das' milestone 60th birthday.

MallikaAshokDas.jpg
She died on June 2nd of cancer. 
 
Saurabh Das said had his mother lived, he's not sure she would have understood the full impact of her courage. He said his mother at first acted as many immigrants, reluctant to speak out. But then he translated the legalese for his mom.

"I had to explain [to her] what happened was not right," Saurabh told me. "And that my mom would be potentially helping a lot of people."

That's all it took for Mallika Das to go forward.

If you need help, the law says it will be there. 

Now go vote.

*     *     *
Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator.
Updates at 
www.amok.com. Follow Emil on Twitter, and like his Facebook page.
The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent AALDEF's views or policies.


Posted by:Emil Guillermo

The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent the views or policies of AALDEF.

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