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posted: 6/30/2013 5:00 AM

Bias at polls cuts many ways

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I have an anecdote that argues that the Southern states are no more likely to discriminate by race in denying the right to vote than those in the North. In short, my experience agrees with last week's Supreme Court decision.

I enrolled in graduate school at the University of Chicago for the fall quarter in 1980. I was anxious to vote in the presidential election, so when November came, I walked to the polling place early, so I had time to vote and walk to class.

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I had an appointment with a company screening summer intern candidates that day, so I wore a business suit. The U of C is on the south side of Chicago. When I arrived at the polling place, I noticed I was the only white person there at the time.

When I got to the front of the line, the election worker asked me my name. He looked on the voter roster and said I was in the wrong place. This response startled me, as I had seen my name in his paperwork. "Can you tell me the right place for me to vote?" I asked. "No, I just know this is not it," he replied.

I decided not to argue and went to class. As I was walking along, I figured I was not only white, but also a white male, and one wearing a business suit at that. A discriminating individual could see I was more likely a Reagan voter than a Carter voter.

In fact, I was not disenfranchised by racial discrimination that day. I returned to my polling place at the end of the school day, stood in the same line, and no one sent me away the second time. I was fortunate I was able to overcome this racial discrimination attempt with mere persistence.

My good fortune does not contradict its existence outside the South.

John Biersteker

Third Lake

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