Voting Rights and Voting Wrongs
Steven Covey wrote a very successful book titled, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” Habit 2: on the list is, “Begin with the End in Mind.” If you take that approach, then you will quickly conclude that two groups with two very different ends in mind are arguing the voting rights issue. If you believe in the concept of “one man, one vote,” and that voting is both a right and a responsibility, then you want to ensure that every eligible voter can vote — once. On the other hand, if you want to unfairly influence the outcome of an election, then you want to make it easy for people who share your views to vote and difficult for people who disagree with you to vote. Two different groups with two very different ends in mind — and therefore we have two very different attitudes about voting.
In the current situation, there are efforts underway in states across the country to make it more difficult for people who tend to vote for liberals and their causes to vote. The people pushing these voter restriction laws try to claim they are protecting the country from voter fraud, but that is a ridiculous argument when you look closely at the issue. Texas provides an excellent illustration of the point. Their voter ID laws will make it more difficult for over 600,000 people to vote (mostly people who might tend to vote liberal). The purported voter fraud issue they claim to be solving? — four cases of voter fraud in the last two general elections. In essence, they are using a non-existent issue to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters. Texas was not alone. Wisconsin voter ID laws disenfranchised about 200,000 voters in the 2016 election.
“According to federal court records, 300,000 registered voters, 9 percent of the electorate, lacked strict forms of voter ID in Wisconsin. A new study by Priorities USA, shared exclusively with The Nation, shows that strict voter-ID laws, in Wisconsin and other states, led to a significant reduction in voter turnout in 2016, with a disproportionate impact on African-American and Democratic-leaning voters. Wisconsin’s voter-ID law reduced turnout by 200,000 votes, according to the new analysis. Donald Trump won the state by only 22,748.” votes.”
There is nothing inherently wrong with requiring people to have an ID to vote. In fact, it has a certain logic to it. However, if we want to do that, then we have to make it so easy for eligible voters to get an ID that it works to encourage, not discourage, voting.
Voting hours is another mechanism used to influence the outcome of elections. If the goal is to increase voter participation, then longer and more convenient voting hours are an obvious part of the solution. If your goal is to make it more difficult for targeted segments of the population to vote, then you close the polls at the times that those people can get to the polls.
Come on, people! If you really believe in the fundamental principle of one man, one vote, this issue is an obvious one. This country is a democracy where ostensibly the majority rules. In order for that to truly be the case, everyone should have the same opportunity to vote. Just because you have the power to change the rules so your team can win, does not mean you should.
America’s Broken Election Processes
Understanding and fixing the electoral process is an American democracy issue, not a partisan issue. Every American should want the democratic process of voting to work fairly and without bias for all eligible voters. Campaigning should try to influence voters’ opinions, but the voting process itself should be fair and unbiased. Currently, a number of factors result in votes being denied, lost, or deliberately and deceitfully influenced.
Since the earliest days of the country, the issue of voting and voting rights has been a fluid topic. The rules have evolved over time as the country became more enlightened and conditions changed. In many of the early changes, new groups of voters were added to the list (e.g. women, blacks, etc.). There have also been changes that disenfranchised groups, most notably in the Jim Crow era. The current collection of voting laws, processes, and procedures are dysfunctional and demand a major overhaul. Recent party-line votes on major issues like healthcare, immigration, tax-reform, and the government shutdown illustrate the point. The electoral system did not become distorted or dysfunctional overnight or by accident, and there are many facets to the problem. The following post identifies and provides a brief summary of a number of issues that are endangering America’s democracy.
This is an excerpt from my book on Poverty — part 21
(Written but not published. If you want a MS Word free copy, let me know.)