Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)-Weekend Contributor
Is there anything more fundamental to a democracy or democratic republic then the ability of its citizens to vote for their representatives at every level of government? The privilege or as many state, the right to vote is essential for citizens to control who is running the local and state and national governments and controlling what direction they want their community and country to go in.
As I write this article, there are groups and indeed, national political parties attempting to restrict the right to vote and restrict the early voting opportunities and attempting to restrict the ability of registered citizens to vote at all. In the past few national elections, we all witnessed the horror stories of people waiting for hours in line to vote on election day. Instead of increasing early voting days and installing additional voting machines in crowded precincts, just the opposite seems to be happening.
“In the past few weeks, a flurry of conservatives have attacked early voting, from Eugene Kontorovich and John McGinnis in Politico to George Will in the Washington Post to J. Christian Adams in the Washington Times. The timing is no coincidence: The Presidential Commission on Election Administration, which President Obama created to look at issues with long lines and other election problems, recently issued its much-anticipated report. The report is full of many sound suggestions for improving our elections, and one of the key recommendations is to expand early voting, either in person, through absentee ballots, or both. There’s good reason to follow the commission’s recommendation: Early voting takes pressure off administering the vote on Election Day. It helps avert long lines and aids election administrators in working out kinks. Voters like early voting because it lets them pick a convenient time to vote, when there are not work or child-care conflicts.” Slate
If you are truly interested in allowing all eligible voters to cast their vote, how can you be against recommendations that would increase the number of citizens that actually vote? It isn’t just columnists and pundits who are suggesting that voting hours should be cut, it is being done by state legislatures and governors. Just one example is the recent reduction of polling stations in a heavy minority area in Florida by the Manatee County Supervisors. Led by the Supervisor of Elections, Michael Bennett, and despite heavy public comments at the Board’s meeting against the measure, the Board of Supervisors claimed it was a money-saving move and not related to whom they would be impacting with this allegedly immoral action.
“On a party-line vote, a Florida county’s Republican majority Board of County Commissioners voted Tuesday to eliminate almost one-third of Manatee County’s voting sites. The board accepted a proposal by Supervisor of Elections Mike Bennett (R) by a 6-1 vote to trim the number of precincts, despite unanimous public testimony against the move — and complaints by the lone Democratic Commissioner that it would eliminate half of the polling places in his heavily minority District 2.
Bennett, in his first term as elections supervisor, proposed reducing the number of Manatee County precincts from 99 to 69. Citing decreased Election Day turnout, as more voters switch to in-person early voting and vote-by-mail options, he told the commissioners that the move would save money and allow the county to offer more early voting sites in the future.
In the public comment section of the meeting, all ten speeches strongly opposed the move. Representatives of the local NAACP and Southern Christian Leadership Council warned that the cuts would decrease voter turnout because voters would have to travel further to a polling place, especially among the elderly and people without cars, and noted that the cuts disproportionately affected minority-heavy precincts. Bennett dismissed these concerns, noting that because District 2 had received “preferential treatment in the past,” even with the changes, his district will have the smallest number of voters per precinct. “It was overbalanced before, it’s overbalanced now.” Bennett also repeatedly noted that he had discussed the move with civil rights groups and both the Republican and “Democrat” Parties.” Think Progress
Our friends on the Right seem to have differing reasons for cutting the ability to vote early and in many case, making it more difficult to vote on Election day. As noted above, some conservatives claim that early voters are untrustworthy and not informed enough on the issues.
“All of these conservative commentators agree that everyone should vote on Election Day to promote “deliberation” or to prevent “stubborn” voters from making “uninformed” or emotional decisions “prematurely.” In short, they argue that we cannot trust the people to decide for themselves when they have enough information to vote.
The claim is empirically false. As Doug Chapin explains: ‘ “This argument, which was popular a decade ago, is undercut by research by Paul Gronke and others showing that early voters are not only more partisan but less undecided, meaning that they have no interest in ‘taking in the full back and forth of the campaign.’ It also flies in the face of voters, well, voting with their feet by choosing to cast ballots outside of the traditional polling place.” ‘ Slate
So, if the proffered reason to cut early voting is not based on facts, could the real reason be…Politics? Could the real reason why minority precincts in Florida are having their voting locations cut at a disparately larger degree then white districts also be based on Politics? Some conservative pundits think that we should be making it harder to vote and indeed, as we have seen above, some legislatures and county boards are taking that view to heart. Do you agree?
Indeed, recently one Billionaire venture capitalist suggested that people who do not pay taxes should not be able to vote and that the wealthy should get more votes than the poor and middle class. As suggested in the linked article, the wealthy already get a larger “vote” than the rest of us because they can purchase the attention of legislators through the use of secret PACs and cash bundling. I guess I should be happy that we are allowed to vote at all. I wonder when the first “Corporations can vote too” legislation will be introduced and passed? Or has it already been introduced?
Should voting be restricted or increased? If money is speech, shouldn’t voting be considered the ultimate speech on who citizens want as their representatives? Is it time for a constitutional amendment guaranteeing the right to vote and outlawing any restrictions in that right? Is it just coincidence that the reduction in voting precincts happens disproportionately in minority areas? What do you think?
RESPECTFULLY SUBMITTED BY LAWRENCE E. RAFFERTY
“The views expressed in this posting are the author’s alone and not those of the blog, the host, or other weekend bloggers. As an open forum, weekend bloggers post independently without pre-approval or review. Content and any displays or art are solely their decision and responsibility.”