What is your take?
Today, The Fulcrum continues its biweekly feature "What is Your Take?" where we ask our readers a question and share various responses. Last time, we posed the following question:
What should be next for voting and election reforms in the United States?
We look forward to engaging with our readers as we create a dialogue around different topics and issues that are important to all of us. Please share your responses by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Y'all had some opinions!
Next week's question is: Which current investigations will be wrapped up by January, and which will drag into the mid-term season?
I have narrowed my election issues to three: vote by mail (vote at home) as conducted in Oregon; removing the de facto citizen status afforded by the Citizens United ruling from corporations (profit and nonprofit) so they cannot fund elections; and remove the artificial cap on the number of seats in the House using the Wyoming Rule so the number of representatives equitably reflects the number of citizens (making moot the gerrymandering dance we suffer every 10 years).
Laws are not enough. They can always be changed or circumvented. The Constitution allows states to control voting in the states. So we need a constitutional amendment that bans all forms of voter suppression and infringement, and requires significant penalties (such as life in prison).
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Voting and election reforms belong to the states themselves. No part of the Constitution authorizes the federal government authority on that. Any federal legislation on the subject is beyond its authority and unconstitutional.
~ John G.
Ranked order and make it easier to Vote (as we do in Colorado).
We at RepresentUs/New Jersey are doing everything we can to alert folks to the democracy threats to our nation and the imperative need for action on the Freedom to Vote Act, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and updating the 19th-century Electoral Count Act (from the Tilden-Hayes scandal).
We need to carve out an exception to the filibuster for voting rights, as we've done for certain budgetary matters and Supreme Court appointments, so this critical pending legislation can be passed.
It is hard to know exactly which one/set of targeted measures will have the greatest impact, in the shortest period of time — and the urgency is underscored by states' ability to restrict voting rights as we have seen.
1. Voting reform: Modernize the system that is antiquated. Institute automatic registration and early voting — both key to ensuring that all can vote.
2. Legal measures: Raise the bar that states have to overcome before initiating any voter suppression laws.
3. Get the private money out of campaigns.
The United States has always had an imperfect electoral system, run by states, counties and cities. We should think long and hard before imposing a top-down system that would be run to federal specifications, decided by government officials and lawmakers in Washington.
I believe that it should be easier to vote in many states and that elections should be held on holidays. But election security is a legitimate concern. When reporting restrictions in one state (Texas, for example), the media should compare its voting rules in others. We don't have early voting in New York and Connecticut. There are no drop-off boxes. It is easier to cast a ballot in many Republican-run states than in much of the North East and Mid West.
Too often, voting and election integrity have been reported as merely a partisan concern. While there are alarming cases of voting discrimination in some red states (Georgia and Texas are examples), and interference by state legislatures (Georgia and Arizona), the overall picture is less clear. Democratic-run New York City has an appallingly inefficient vote count, whereas Florida does very well. Utah, Oregon and Colorado are examples of red and blue states with efficient mail-in and online voting.
As with so many problems we face, the solutions are debatable, nuanced and complex.
We need to ensure integrity in the actual votes cast and counted. Electronic vote scanning and tabulation alone leave the system terribly vulnerable.
Linda Paine, founder of Election Integrity Project California, along with others such as Catherine Engelbrecht, founder of True The Vote, would be people to engage for the details of how to do so. I know and trust them both.
It is hard to see a way forward on voting rights when those bills apparently lack the support of even moderate GOP senators like Mitt Romney and Susan Collins. I'm sure my calls to the offices of my Tennessee senators fell on deaf ears. Ending the filibuster might do more harm than good in the long run.
It is tough sledding for those of us who value middle ground, cooperation, and compromise. But keep trying; I support your efforts.
In recent years, voting has been the subject of considerable debate, including whether voting is a right or a privilege. The reality is that voting is a right, a privilege, and more importantly, a responsibility. Although voting is a right, it is not a fundamental God-given right in the same way that life and liberty are. It is a right that is accorded under a democratic (small d) system by a governmental authority, in which the citizens engage in a measure of self-determination. Should self-determination be a fundamental right of every human being? The answer to that question may be "yes," but there are many more restrictive systems that seem to work, even separate and apart from open voting processes. That said, voting is a privilege, in that those citizens who choose to vote--to participate in the electoral process--are privileged to be able to have that right. Privilege, however, should not attach based on any restrictive factor; once given in a society, that privilege needs to be available on an equal and equitable basis, without regard to any particular classification and without discrimination. That said, the most important consideration is the operation of the voting process in a responsible manner and the responsible exercise of the right and privilege of voting.
In order to maintain the integrity of a voting system, the laws and regulations need to be sufficient to safeguard the validity of every legitimate vote and yet not be so restrictive that they prevent qualified voters from exercising their voting rights. This delicate balance has sometimes been difficult to maintain, and has often been abused in the interest of advancing a particular agenda or discriminating against particular classifications of individuals. It is, however, the responsibility of the governing authority to maintain that balance as best it can. Voting laws need to be viewed in context, and not simply as individual provisions. Measures that impose too many requirements or that cause voters to be too distant or the polling places to be too distant need to be re-examined and revised. If a law or regulation would impose an undue burden on those qualified to vote, then the law or regulation must be changed in order for the system to operate properly. Conversely, if a system is so lax that it allows for rampant abuse, the governmental authority has no choice but to impose reasonable restrictions.
Voters are responsible for ensuring that their voting rights are exercised with a clear understanding of the gravity of their actions. Whether a vote is exercised in-person or by mail, that vote needs to be submitted honestly and honorably, and with full knowledge and understanding of what that vote represents. Some measures, such as voter identification, are not overly restrictive and protect, not only the voting mechanism but the voters themselves, in that their vote is safeguarded against abuse by another person claiming their vote. Voters need to maintain an awareness that their vote matters, and that without their participation, the business of government would not proceed honestly, efficiently, and most importantly, effectively for making the lives of those living in the country better than they would have been without the vote.
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