Is It Too Much To Ask To Not Throw People Onto The Highways?

Submitted by Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

jailLast night I had a situation that I found to be quite disappointing. Just after seven o’clock in the evening, I thought I would have dinner at a restaurant on the other side of town and drove over there to dine out. Along the way, I needed to merge onto a major interstate freeway in the metro area having four lanes and busy traffic. As I drove along in the outside lane, it was after dark at the time, I saw a man walking along the hard shoulder of the roadway. I worried that a drunk might veer off the travelled portion and hit him so I pulled over to offer him a ride. Thus began a conversation that really shows how we can often allow people to be put at risk because the county does not want to offer them a modicum of accommodation.

After I picked him up, the gentleman walking around the roadway told me that he had just been released from the county jail after serving time for driving while license suspended. He did not have someone to pick him up from jail so he had no other option but to walk back home. He lived twenty five miles from the jail. The only way he could get home, since he had no money with him, was to walk along a busy interstate freeway.

We previously wrote about the virtual debt peonage and endless circle of jail and further increases of fines with suspended drivers in an article HERE.

It would have taken him until after six in the morning to walk that far. So rather than drive him to the next exit to find another ride I just drove him home.

He was 57 years old, unemployed and had no family available to drive him. He had no other choice than to walk. I asked him if the jail offered him a bus ticket or some other accommodation to allow him to return home after release. He said the jail used to give bus tickets to people in his situation but stopped doing that several years ago.

We had a good visit with each other, but the entire time we were together I could not help but wonder why the county has a system as such that a person of little means is forced to walk twenty five miles home because no effort was made to arrange for his journey. The risk this man faced from being hit by a drunk driver, stopped by the state patrol for being a pedestrian on a limited access freeway, or simply collapsing from exhaustion is certainly not something that we should accept nor something a person released from custody should endure.

I recognize that the sheriff’s office is not a taxi service and has no obligation to provide transport for released inmates after their term has expired, but couldn’t the county at least take a few more steps to ensure that someone can either pick up the inmate or try to prevent a situation where a fifty seven year old does not have to walk twenty five miles to get home?

Is this too much to ask?

By Darren Smith

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.

440 thoughts on “Is It Too Much To Ask To Not Throw People Onto The Highways?”

  1. David,
    If you imagine yourself alone, in the state of nature and then consider your natural right to free speech; voting would not even be in consideration (unless of course you were schizophrenic). 😉

    Voting is a product of the social contract; not the other way around.

    1. Olly wrote: “If you imagine yourself alone, in the state of nature and then consider your natural right to free speech; voting would not even be in consideration (unless of course you were schizophrenic). Voting is a product of the social contract; not the other way around.”

      Excellent argument.

  2. MikeA, I might add that the closest argument I can think of for voting being a fundamental right is its connection to freedom of speech. I understand clearly how free speech is a fundamental right, so if voting is simply an expression of speech, then it too would be a fundamental right.

    The problem is that when I consider that standing on a street corner and preaching political action, or producing a television program that voices political opinion, would likely do more good than casting a vote, then I think that argument becomes pretty weak. When I examine my own heart about when my vote becomes disenfranchised for whatever reason, it really is no skin off my back. I would not care in the same way as when I am arrested for expressing my opinion. Furthermore, if we think about it, voting is simply all about the mechanics of measuring the consent of the governed. Therefore, the job is to find a voting system that accurately measures that consent. That might mean a non-universal system, and it might mean a weighted system rather than equal suffrage. Originally the election of the Senate was meant to provide that weighted system based upon property and Statehood, but we have moved away from that. As people fight to get rid of the electoral college and use the popular vote instead, the transition toward a more pure democracy will be accomplished (which will not be good).

  3. Doc,
    I don’t care if he was speaking to the Girl Scouts, do you have any other context that represents his motives were about disenfranchising voters? If you do then I will easily agree in condemning him; short of that then you are doing a disservice to the issue of voter suppression.

  4. david, “If all the women simply assumed all positions of leadership in this world, with men no longer having the responsibilities of leadership, men could relax and enjoy life a little bit more.’

    What a great idea! If men would just respect the change we could change from a competitive dog eat dog world to one where cooperation rules. Mothers could reclaim their military sons and daughters and military materials could be scrapped. Men could be put to work rebuilding infrastructure. Oh, the possibilities…………………!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. MikeA, I like same day registration because it makes it easier to vote. It also is much more vulnerable for fraud.

  6. Olly:

    We don’t know if everyone recognizes an ability and obligation to contribute to society. Clearly there are people who do not, both with and without means.

  7. I’m not defending or condemning the following comments. My intent is to provide the full context behind the :15 second video that certainly lacked ANY context.

    “Turzai Comments on Commonwealth Court Voter ID Ruling 8/15/2012 PITTSBURGH (August 15, 2012) – The following is a statement from Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny County) on the decision released today from Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson affirming Act 18, the latest in a series of election protection laws passed by the legislature since 2001. Act 18 became law in March. Pennsylvania’s voter ID requirements will provide election officials with an important tool to detect not only incidents of impersonation fraud, but double voting, voting by non-citizens and voting under a fictitious registration. The new law’s absentee voter ID requirements will help to deter absentee ballot fraud.

    “The integrity of each and every valid vote was upheld today. As the court said, the requirements of Act 18 will be implemented in a non-partisan, even-handed manner by Commonwealth agencies, and qualified voters will have their votes counted.

    “The many election reforms enacted, including voter ID, are aimed to ensure citizens and registered voters have the right to vote and have their vote counted. It’s about one person, one vote, and each instance of fraud dilutes legitimate votes.

    “It is unfortunate, but there has been a history of voter fraud in Pennsylvania.

    “The elections in the Commonwealth will be on a more level playing field thanks to voter ID and other recent election reforms.””

  8. Nick:

    I guess that means that Wisconsin voters are more efficient than the rest of us.

  9. davidm:

    Your reference to “more knowledgeable voters” struck me for what it says. What is the “knowledge” threshold for voting? Why should I assume that poverty is equated with a lack of understanding sufficient to cast an intelligent vote? Had I remained in the seminary, I would have eventually taken a vow of poverty. Should my lack of property in that event have disqualified me from voting?

    I view voting as a fundamental right because that is how we memorialize our consent to government, and consent is a condition precedent to legitimacy.

    As for names of legislators, I don’t have them at my fingertips, but I have identified them in previous comments on this site. I recall a Florida legislator a couple of years ago who insisted that we need to make voting more difficult. A Tennessee legislator a couple of years ago argued that voting should be limited to freeholders. And a legislator in either New Hampshire or Maine recently stated that students should not be permitted to vote because they tend to support “liberals.”

    I do not understand the “harassment” statement. I have worked the telephones in the past urging people to vote, but I have never annoyed or harassed people for that purpose.

    1. Mike Appleton wrote: “What is the “knowledge” threshold for voting? Why should I assume that poverty is equated with a lack of understanding sufficient to cast an intelligent vote?”

      I do not believe in limiting the vote based upon poverty. I used the word poverty because that is who the Democratic Party keeps claiming is disenfranchised in voting with ID laws. There is a link between poverty and education. Better educated people usually earn more money. It is a common reason that parents send children to college, so they can land better paying jobs. There are exceptions. I’ve met Ph.D.’s who were penniless and homeless on the streets of Tampa. I often hear of wealthy inventors who had no more than a grammar school education.

      So instead of poverty, I think one of the criteria should be understanding. Understanding government, law, and the effect of public policies in history should weigh the vote for those who have that understanding. I admit it is difficult to devise a weighting scale, but I think some effort to do it would lead to better government. The idea that a mentally ill drug addict on the street who doesn’t even know where the polling place is without someone holding his hand and leading him there would cancel out the vote of a lawyer like yourself just seems clear to lead to worse government. I know you and I think very differently about public policy and very many issues, but I have more trust in your voice in government than I do in that dim soul on the street who doesn’t have a clue. This does NOT devalue that person. He has every bit as much a right to life and happiness as anybody else. His life is valuable and his right to make decisions for himself is valuable. But if he is stupid about government, his vote will lead to worse government.

      And please note that I realize I am shooting the conservative Republicans down with this suggestion of education being a weighting criterium. Most educated people are liberal Democrats.

      An employee here just told me yesterday that when her husband votes, and when she asked him who he voted for in the last election, he says, “oh, I didn’t know most of them, so I just christmas treed it.” That means he did what some dim students in school do when taking a test. They color it in and hope that by chance a few of his selections were the right ones. Surely you can see how such a ballot works toward worse government rather than better government. It works to cancel out the votes of people who actually put thought into who would best serve the community.

      Mike Appleton wrote: “I view voting as a fundamental right because that is how we memorialize our consent to government, and consent is a condition precedent to legitimacy.”

      The word “memorialize” is interesting. I will have to think about that some more. However, I do not see the connection to “fundamental right.” I agree that consent is a precedent to legitimate government, but not that voting is the best way of measuring that consent.

      Equal universal voting cheapens the measurement of that consent for the reasons just outlined above. Consent is measured much better by the happiness of those who are ruled by government. It is possible to have a dictatorship by a benevolent and wise dictator, with no voting privileges at all, and have a better government with more popular consent than a government with equal and universal suffrage. We would know it by the people simply being prosperous and happy with their government. Sometimes people do not know what is best for them. They do not have the wisdom to know who would be the better candidate. Yet when the better candidate wins, they know he is a better candidate because they prosper under his rule. If a bad candidate wins, they regret their vote. The more our government has moved toward universal and equal suffrage, and the more we move toward popular vote being important, the less happy people seem to be with government. Never have more people been allowed to vote in our history, yet people seem to be more unhappy with government than ever before. This prediction was made by our founding fathers, that democracy destroys good government.

      Because men are corrupt and dictators invariably succomb to the pitfalls of wealth and power, we certainly need voting. However, I think it should be more measured as our founding fathers attempted to make it. We should not have mob rule of the populace. So progress to me would be solving the problem of a weighted voting system. But if our government decides to have equal and universal suffrage, I will make the best out of it. Just don’t get upset at me or others who say our vote doesn’t mean anything anymore and so it is a waste of time to vote.

      Mike Appleton wrote: “I do not understand the “harassment” statement.”

      Some people do not want to vote. I’ve known many homeless people express resentment about the democrats who try to round them up to vote. Often they are enticed with offers of food to vote. I know a man who does not ever vote because he thinks it is a waste of time. He gets upset at those who preach at him that it is his right and duty to vote. He believes his vote is washed out by everybody else’s vote. Another guy thinks the elections are fixed and those pushing it are trying to trick him into thinking he has the government everyone has chosen.

  10. Yes, doc. I would not object to government prohibiting men from voting. If all the women simply assumed all positions of leadership in this world, with men no longer having the responsibilities of leadership, men could relax and enjoy life a little bit more.

    1. Yeah, he’s a Republican speaking to Republican, but Democrats are reading too much into it. This is NOT an admission that the strategy of ID laws are to disenfranchise voters.

      The fuller context was:
      “Pro-Second Amendment? The Castle Doctrine, it’s done. First pro-life legislation – abortion facility regulations – in 22 years, done. Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done,”

      “Turzai’s spokesperson Stephen Miskin, however, said the comment emphasized the problem of voter fraud in the state.”

      Read more:

  11. Rethinking here, Mike. In Florida you do not have to provide ID to register to vote. So, it would be pretty easy to register to vote under an alias if you wanted to. Annie could go register to vote 19 times under 19 different names if she was smart enough, and then she could vote 19 times. Although Florida says it requires ID (even a credit card or debit card can be used as ID), if you don’t have ID with you, you can still vote. They give you a provisional ballot and compare your signature to what they have on file. If it matches, your vote counts. Lots of ways to game the system if some thought is given to it.

  12. Wi has same day registration, without an ID, it’s like Cook County! And, we get a lot of Cook County folks voting there and in Milwaukee, Kenosha and Racine County. Twice in Chicago, once in Milwaukee. Three votes for the price of one!

  13. David

    I wonder about your position if the law impacted you.

    Would it be alright if the law prohibited men from voting?

  14. MA,
    Very eloquent as usual, but I certainly do not agree we have “universal” suffrage. We have a significant percentage of the population restricted from the franchise simply because they haven’t yet reached the age of 18. What is it about the age of 18 that makes one’s vote more qualified than the 17 year old that came up one day short?

    “The sole purpose for any identification is to make certain that I am who I say I am. This is done through the process of voter registration. Once that is accomplished, the documentation delivered to me by the registrar should be sufficient, without more, for the nice volunteers at my polling place.”

    Registration is only part of the process. Using your logic then passwords would not be required on websites because I had already registered as a user.

    “We have matured as a society and most of us now recognize that everyone has a societal role to play and everyone has a right to participate in the choice of representatives.”

    How do you know if anyone recognizes their role in society? If this blog and the “Italian nurse” thread is any indication, then I would argue we are no more mature now than when this republic began. In many respects, I believe the citizens have regressed in what their respective roles are; certainly less independent, less civically aware and far more apathetic than previous generations.

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