Who would have thought that a simple behavior like voting, which every student in America grows up participating in, would be so complex for adults? After all, at an early age students learn to simply raise their hand or fill out a piece of paper to elect class officers, student government representatives, to tell the teacher something which will help make the class better and more. These activities reflect a form of decision-making known as democracy. For the most part, it works well because each student gets to sometimes voice their opinions in what happens in class.
Democracy is also a form of government. Politically, history traces democracy all the way back to ancient Greece. From there it spread in various forms, like to ancient Roman civilization, in the form of a Senate. Later, in western Europe a form of democracy began in England with the signing of the Magna Carta, and later to America and western Europe.
After the Revolutionary War in America, Founding Fathers chose a federal republic type of government for the United States. This type of government is also a type of democracy which allows people to have the opportunity to participate in the direct election of their federal representatives (House of Representative members as well as Senators). The President is chosen by an Electoral College system which is also supposed to reflect the choice of people in their respective states. More on the antiquated Electoral College at a later date.
For now, let us discuss how a simple thing like voting became so complex in our democracy. Furthermore, let us look at how one political party or another sometimes weaponizes the voting process to disenfranchise (keep people from voting) some voters. And, make no mistake, disenfranchising people has been going on in America for a long, long time.
To say it is disturbing to learn the true history of voting in America is an understatement. Most Americans grew up believing everyone had an opportunity to vote in U.S. elections. In reality, from the very beginning of our nation, minorities like black Americans (particularly those who were slaves) and people who did not own property were unable to vote in some states. It seems the Founding Fathers did not believe in a total democratic system. Rather, they wanted to guarantee that the movers and shakers in society would determine who runs the government. To some extent this struggle has continued even into the modern era.
Thank goodness for a free press because without it, we may fall victim to actually believing all people in America today have an opportunity to vote. On the contrary, voter suppression and disenfranchisement is very much alive and well. It just looks different in our modern world.
There were times in U.S. history that voter suppression and disenfranchisement was motivated by race. And while that is still going on at times, today the major contributing factors seem to be the corruption of the two major political parties. There can be little doubt that with the development of each political party came a growing motivation to hold onto power. In time, for some leaders in the parties, the ends justified the means. Power is everything. It no longer became about trying to influence voters to vote for specific candidates but about holding on to power no matter what the cost. Because of this voter suppression and disenfranchisement still occurs in America in many forms today.
For example, trying to force people beyond reason to obtain voter identification is a form of voter suppression. Many older citizens do not have a drivers’ license, nor should they. They often do not have the ability to travel just anywhere to obtain some kind of identification. Sometimes, they do not even have a birth certificate, making it even harder to obtain the identification card. So, what is this really all about? In many polling locations throughout the U.S. poll workers know who these older people are and in fact they have been voting for years. So, saying they might be plants from outside the community is not really a good excuse to force them to have some kind of I.D. Everyone knows Grandma Mary because she has been voting for years at the same place.
Another example of voter suppression/disenfranchisement is the harvesting of ballots. This a process whereby ballots are collected at various locations and then turned over to election officials by someone other than the voter. Really, can you imagine what could happen to these ballots between the time they are collected and the time they are turned in? They could be changed. They could disappear. In North Carolina, someone was indicted because of harvesting ballots. Today North Carolina and Arizona have laws against someone other than the voter turning in a ballot(s), (McLaughlin). What about the other states? And what about bogus ballot boxes that were placed in various California locations this past election season (Midkiff)? This was a recipe for possible fraud. Why did this occur? What was the agenda for people doing these types of activities? Do the ends justify the mean? Has it really come to this?
Then there is the problem of purging voter registration rolls. While this can at times be legitimate, it can also be another way of disenfranchising voters. It makes sense when someone dies for a state or local municipality to remove their name from a voter registration list. Whether or not this is happening all across America is questionable. Perhaps, the election process would be better served by making a notation on the registration roles for the next few elections that this person is deceased. This way, if someone shows up and purports to be that person, election officials will know right away something is not right. But what happens if election officials delete the name of a person simply because they are a minority. Take for example the name Garcia. There are thousands of people with the name of Garcia in the United States. To assume that person moved to another state and thereby remove his or her name arbitrarily from the registration list is wrong. And how can it be that 198,000 people were purged off the Georgia poll registration list prior to a major election? Currently, there is a lawsuit pending to have those names reinstated on the voter registration rolls prior to the run-off election in January 2021 (Fink). Was all of this a mistake or was it because of more sinister motives? The courts will have to decide.
In addition, asking state officials to disenfranchise an entire area of voters because of a few election irregularities is insane. Sure, there are going to be mistakes and things slip through the cracks. People are only human and people working at the polls are usually volunteers. They are not usually civil servants who have an expertise in this area. To ask a state legislature or state legislators to disenfranchise a large group of voters because of a few incorrect ballots is morally wrong. Throw out the problem ballots as most likely election officials already do but do not disenfranchise a whole area.
Foreign intervention is another problem area. Today, it is possible for foreign hackers, on behalf of a specific government who wishes for one candidate or another to win, to plant propaganda for the purpose of repressing voter turnout. These kinds of activities occur on social media sites whereby people unknowingly are targeted by the use of some kind of algorithms. Once identified, hackers can spread propaganda designed to specifically affect these groups of people. They in turn may send the propaganda to everyone on their social media list. Within a week, it is possible for millions of people to read information that is not true. And, while today it may be one minority or another, tomorrow it could be anyone. These kinds of activities are wrong and should be opposed by all Americans. Somehow they need to be identified and eliminated in the future just as they do in times of war.
Unfortunately, “the radicalization of the two major parties is so pronounced today that it has permeated almost every aspect of American society.” Gerrymandering is a good example of this. “Gerrymandering is a process by which one political party in power tries to redraw district voting maps in a state legislature. Such activity can provide an overwhelming advantage in registered voters for one party or the other. This newfound majority in the redrawn district gives one party, the majority party in the new district, a tremendous advantage in the general election in November. (Fish).” Gerrymandering may not be voter suppression or disenfranchisement, but it is wrong.
Also, what happens when gerrymandering efforts fail and a particular party’s candidate loses an election? Of course, a party and a candidate can request a recount provided they have the funds to pay for such action. They can even go to court provided they have evidence of election fraud being committed. But what if the recount ends up with the same result? How many recounts do you need to prove who won the election? What if the courts cannot find any evidence of voter fraud? What if after the recounts and the court actions, some people still refuse to accept the fact their candidate lost? Is it ok for people to attend rallies, chanting obscenities and authoritative slogans like, “lock him up” in an effort to intimidate election/government officials to overturn an election in favor of their candidate (Walker)? What if a high-ranking governmental official(s) were to press state legislators to vote for a different slate of electors after the election has been certified, in an effort to nullify the peoples vote in that state (The Associated Press and Scripps National)? Weaponizing the Electoral College is another reason to reform this institution. In addition, is it right to have armed militia show up outside a state governmental official’s private home to demonstrate in an effort to overturn an election in favor of their candidate (Wade)? Is any of this democracy? Is this the kind of country Americans want their children to grow up in? All of this calls to mind Benjamin Franklin’s words. “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom.”
There is nothing virtuous about this kind of activity. In fact, these kinds of activities generally occur in authoritative/fascist countries whereby governmental officials are bullied and sometimes violently, by the leader/party in control. Do Americans really want to live in this type of system? In another blog we will discuss the differences between fascism and democracy. For now, let us just say it is very troubling to see many Americans refusing to accept the consequences of a democratic election, especially when the election process was run and managed in a state by the party of the candidate who lost. If we desire to maintain our freedom and live in a democratic country, Americans must remain virtuous.
We could go on and on about all of this and more. Our history is full of examples of states forcing poll taxes, poll tests, gerrymandering, intimidation on voters and governmental officials. The truth is, what is happening today is simply a more innovative approach to the age-old problems of voting in America.
So, why don’t we make a real commitment to democracy by modernizing our voting process? In A CALL TO REFORM Sustaining America’s Unique Culture, there are numerous ideas to fix these problems. To start, why don’t we follow Amendment V in the Bill of Rights, ratified February 3, 1870? “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” Let us modernize our federal government to make it uniform and easy for all American citizens to vote. This could include,
- Allowing people living in U.S. territories who are born citizens of the United States to vote.
- Let us also make it easy in all fifty states and U.S. territories to vote early, with specific rules and guidelines.
- Force the Senate to take up and pass H.R. 1; a large bill with detailed explanations of how to modernize our election system. In it are provisions for all states to have internet voter registration, online assistance, allow same day voter registration, allow early voting and much more.
- Let us also allow States to begin counting mail in and absentee ballots as they are received from official election locations. This could eliminate any future Red or Blue mirages during election week. After the experiences Americans have just been through, it is safe to say that knowing early who the winner will be is a plus.
- Let us also reinstitute for all polling locations both a paper ballot and a machine count. In this way results can be verified by election officials to make sure they are within 1% of error before they are reported to state officials.
- Let us also keep our federal system of fifty different states and territories voting so that no foreign power will be able to easily affect the voting process.
- Let us also do away with or at the least reform the Electoral College to reflect modern, literate voters.
These ideas and more can be found in A CALL TO REFORM Sustaining America’s Unique Culture. If we are to reach the goals set out for us by Founding Fathers, Americans need to modernize the voting process. After reviewing all of our suggestions, please let us know your thoughts. Your opinions matter to us and to America.
Fish, Stephen. A CALL TO REFORM Sustaining America’s Unique Culture. 2020. Print.
Fink, Jenni. “Georgia Hit With Another Lawsuit, and It’s Not From Trump.” Newsweek. Web. December 2, 2020.
McLaughlin, Seth. “Adapt or die: Republicans embrace ballot harvesting.” The Washington Times. Web. November 15, 2020.
Midkiff, Sarah. Republicans Admit to Placing Misleading Ballot Boxes All Over California.” Refinery 29. Web. October 13, 2020.
The Associated Press and Scripts National. “Trump asks Pennsylvania House speaker about replacing presidential electors.” ACB Action News. com. Web. December 8, 2020.
Wade, Peter. “Armed Protestors Gathered Outside Michigan Secretary of State’s Home.” Rolling Stone. Web. December 7, 2020.
Walker, James. “Pro-Trump Lawyer Calls for Republican Georgia Governor to Be Locked Up.” Newsweek. Web. December 3, 2020.