In Georgia, we have news that the Republican candidate for governor is conducting an active campaign of voter suppression, invalidating 53,000 new voter applications. In North Dakota, there is an active attempt to keep as many Native Americans away from the polls as possible in order to deliver a Senate seat to the GOP. The persistence of such voter suppression tactics as part of an overall political strategy stands as testimony for the need to establish uniform federal election standards throughout the country. Now conservatives see even the mention of federalization of elections as a fundamental threat to our basic liberties. Liberals may look upon federalizing elections as just another arrow in their quiver of political weapons. True patriots, however, see it as an absolute necessity if we are to preserve the preeminent right of American citizenship, namely the right to vote. List ME as a patriot!
Of all the rights enumerated in our Constitution, the right to vote is the most important. All our other rights as citizens flow from that Constitutional provision. We cannot contend that we have a government of the people, by the people or for the people unless we the people have the right to choose those who will govern us. And as it stands right now, all too many people are facing the possibility that their right to vote will be invalidated as part of some partisan political strategy.
Is this voter suppression strategy a universal phenomenon? Answer: No it isn’t! But that’s what makes the issue so maddening. In many of our states, democracy is thriving. Not only are there no artificial impediments to people’s right to vote, there are states out there that are actively encouraging people to vote; making it easy to register, easy to vote early, and making the entire voting process from beginning to end as convenient as possible. But in other places, the forces of despotism seek to wrest that right, not from everyone, but selectively; trying to assure that certain voting blocs aren’t allowed to vote NOT because they are ineligible but because historically they vote the “wrong” way!
Make no mistake about it. I don’t advocate that everyone and his cousin be allowed to vote just because they show up at a polling place. I fully understand that the right to vote is reserved to CITIZENS of the United States. To contend otherwise would simply make the right to vote meaningless. But going in the opposite direction and placing as many roadblocks as possible in the way of CERTAIN KINDS of citizens is not only unfair but patently unconstitutional.
I advocate for a fair and uniform standard of election laws that treat every citizen in this country the same way. What constitutes an eligible voter in one state ought to define an eligible voter in EVERY state. That’s one of the reasons that the 14th Amendment is so important, as it guarantees equal protection under the law. To distinguish between certain classes of voters against all others is a travesty of the equal protection clause. To continue to operate otherwise is to set up separate classes of citizenship which is against both the spirit and the letter of the law.
Fundamentally, the federalization of our election laws is about fairness. It does not say that every warm body that shows up has the right to vote. What is DOES say, however, is that the process of registering and voting must be both uniform and fair. Now ordinarily I have no argument with the constitutional provision that the power not specifically enumerated in the Constitution to the federal government redounds to the states. My argument is with the reality of states’ rights. All too often there are people in the various states who have found the means to weaponize the election laws to provide a political advantage to one party or another. Gerrymandering is a perfect example. Right here in Illinois there are far too many uncontested elections because Speaker Madigan has cleverly drawn electoral maps to favor his political party. It’s wrong and it’s a practice that must be stopped, not only in Illinois but throughout our country. Making the process of voting both inconvenient and downright onerous is yet another way to weaponize election law, whether it be by severely limiting the hours in which one can vote early or the selective placement of polling places to discourage minority groups from coming out to vote.
Democracy is literally government by the people. We don’t have a pure democracy, never have. We are a republic and as such we select people to represent us in government. But the underlying principle of democracy still beats strongly in our hearts, namely that WE get to choose who governs and who doesn’t. Placing impediments in the path of the functioning of our democratic system undermines the entire principle of democracy. One can gloat, if one will, over the fact that one party or one ethnic group has been disproportionately affected by rigging the election laws. That is until such time as weaponized election laws are turned against US. That’s the danger here. Once you open the floodgates of manipulating election laws to the detriment of one group or another, you ultimately expose yourself as a target. Federalizing election laws may not represent a perfect solution to the problem of fiddling with democracy, but it’s a darned sight better than leaving the regulation of our elections in the hands of crass and venal politicians of EITHER party!
Filed under: Politics