Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Vote

So if we're all lucky, you're reading this after having voted and seen some of the results come in -- the "will of the people."

As I write this Tuesday afternoon, the local results are unknown.

But what's important in a big picture kind of way, is that there will be results -- not something you can say in lots of places in the world, or at least not results you can believe.

Most Americans view voting as a commonplace thing; something you do twice a year if you remember.

African-Americans had to fight for fair voting rules.
But it is one of the few places that the corporate oligarchs who control so much of what happens in this country -- where you live, what you're paid, what you know -- do not yet fully control.

At least for now.

One way to control voting is to control who votes.

Just ask blacks in the Jim Crow south; and women before 1920 when the 19th Amendment was ratified.

Since its inception, much of the democratic history of our great Republic has been a history of limiting voting to those likely to continue the policies and viewpoint those who benefit from being in power.
So did women.

And a parallel, often lesser-known history, has unfolded in the fight by those disenfranchised by such efforts to win the right to vote.

I'll spare you the usual, well-worn axioms that if you don't vote, you can't complain; or that (some) veterans died to preserve the right to vote.

(Many, such as those who fought in undeclared wars in the Philippines, Vietnam and Iraq, mostly fought to advance the "American interests" of the oligarchs of their day. This does not make their sacrifice any less noble, only more tragic.)

The fact that such well-worn arguments about voting are so often trotted out at election time doesn't make them any less true.

Sadly, if voter participation rates are any indication, too few Americans find them inspirational enough to motivate them to actually vote.

But if the recent debate over background checks for gun purchasers is any indication, nothing motivates a person who takes their unused rights for granted more than a perceived effort to take them away.

So perhaps there is a re-surgence in the offing.

Like it or not, there are efforts out there to undermine your right to vote -- unless you're a rich white guy that is.

Like it or not, the "typical" American voter is no longer
a white male. Get used to it.
As the inexorable crush of demographics changes the face of the "average American," like a tsunami of molasses that you see coming slowly but can do nothing to avoid, Hispanics will soon be the majority of this country.

And they vote.

The Obama campaign recognized this and capitalized on it as the national GOP continued to convince itself it would win with a 12-foot fence along the Mexican border.

(Don't worry Republicans, if the Democrats are true to form, they will soon begin to take the loyalty of most Hispanic voters for granted and fritter away their present demographic advantage.)

There is a segment of the Republican party that recognizes this wave, and believes the party needs to do more to appeal to this demographic -- mostly they are realists who govern southern states that already have large Hispanic populations that must be wooed to win.

There is another segment that hopes to win by finding ways to keep that wave away from the polls, which brings us back to the subject at hand.

If you do not think such efforts are underway, then you probably don't vote

If you did vote yesterday, you may have been asked for photo ID, and you would have been legally permitted to refuse and vote anyway.

But that may not be true much longer.

When the Pennsylvania courts suspended Pennsylvania's Voter ID law for the presidential election, and yesterday's primary that followed, it was only delaying the inevitable.

PREMATURE BRAGGART?: Mike Turzai's bragging came 
a little too soon
And if you think this is about preventing fraud, you would work needlessly to find a single example of in-person voter fraud, which is the only thing Voter ID stops.

As famously loud-mouthed Pennsylvania Rep. Mike Turzai made prematurely evident, the entire scheme, cloaked in a shroud if "integrity" was largely about keeping some people from the polls -- people the least likely to have a photo ID as a matter of course.

That means blacks, Hispanics and, of course, the poor.

If you want a taste of the impact of the law's potential consider that "poll workers
wrongly demanding to see photo ID from Pennsylvania voters – especially voters of color – were the most common problem reported during last November’s federal election."

That was the information presented in January to the Democratic Policy Committee Hearing on Voter ID Law & Early Voting.

Pennsylvania voters placed 9,171 complaint calls to the Election Protection hotline on Election Day, second only to California. The number one issue: poll workers wrongly demanding voters show a photo ID.

How PA voted in 2012
Having lost Pennsylvania's electoral votes for Mitt Romney, the Republicans tried a new tac -- change the "winner-take-all" aspect of Pennsylvania's Electoral College votes.

"Split them proportionally," they said, arguing its more "representative" of how the state votes.

In February, The York Dispatch's editorial board put it better than I could:
It's a ploy being considered by Republicans in several other swing states, and one endorsed by GOP National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus after President Barack Obama's re-election.
"I think it's something that a lot of states that have been consistently blue that are fully controlled red ought to be looking at," he said last month.
And the consistently red states? They presumably would continue allocating all of their electoral votes to the winner, meaning the only effect of changes like Pileggi is suggesting would be to siphon electoral votes from Democratic candidates.
It's a shameless attempt to rig the system, but better than the one Pileggi floated last year. That one would have allocated electoral votes based on our congressional districts -- our heavily gerrymandered congressional districts.
Me? I say it doesn't go far enough.

If the Republicans want a truly representative Democracy, let's do away with the Electoral College all together.
Seven of the 10 most populous states voted blue in 2012.
Do Republicans really want to start a conversation about
distributing votes proportionally? OK.

Do they really want to live in a country where the "representative" weight of the ten most populous states -- California, Texas, New York, Florida, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, which together represent   53.3 percent of the total U.S. population -- decide every presidential election?

Of those states, only Texas, Georgia and North Carolina have voted reliably Republican since 1992, with North Carolina going for Obama in 2008 and George going for Clinton in 1992.

They realize, one hopes, that under such a "popular vote" scenario Al Gore would have been the president who responded to the 9/11 attack.

Yeah, I would imagine their taste for "representation" would dwindle quickly.

The true idiocy of it all is that each state sets its own rules for voting. 

To my knowledge, no other Democracy on Earth does this.

We are one nation. We fought a bloody war over "states rights," and the states rights people lost.

We need one voting system for the nation, so Ohio can't use the power of an incumbent Republican attorney general to narrow the voting window in Democratic areas and leave it broad in Republican ones.

If you wanted to be picayune, I suppose you could have state voting rules for state and local races, but in truth that would just be even more confusing.

In March, President Obama created a commission to look into just that possibility -- away to standardize voting access and registration across the country.

According to the Associated Press: 
The top lawyer for Obama's re-election campaign, Bob Bauer, will co-chair the commission with the top lawyer for Republican Mitt Romney's campaign, Ben Ginsburg.
The goal is to address issues including long lines at the polls, voter registration and voter access.
Invariably, we come together as one nation during a crisis. 

Shouldn't we all vote under the same rules and regulations when we collectively perform the one tasks which literally defines us a nation?


  1. first, the 10 Th amendment covers states rights which i believe in. However, when it comes to the electoral college, it should be abolished. the 91st congress was the closest to abolish the electoral college. I think poll workers should be more trained in the election laws. We can talk about Republican vs democrats all day long. When we blame one party, we can usually find the other guilty also. And by the way, I did not vote Tuesday. I'm a registered independent.

  2. Thanks for your thoughts Mike. I always appreciate them, and thanks for voting.

    In terms of sharing blame, I am not aware of any efforts by Democrats to limit voting, but perhaps there are.

    Where I would agree with you is in the gerrymandering both parties engage in when re-districting is undertaken after the Census.

    This time, in PA it was the Republicans and the splitting of Pottstown into two state Rep. districts is an example of the obvious attempt to dilute the borough's Democratic leanings.

    Does anyone really think Tim Hennessey in his horse-farm district in Chester County has any sense at all of the issues in Pottstown's first ward?

    That said, I know the Democrats do the same thing when they have the majority, so on that we definitely agree.

  3. I agree evan. Your point of Tim Hennessey is spot on. Just like our non resident boro manager and school administrators.

  4. The assertion that voter ID is suppression or to infer that it is analogous with Jim Crow laws is disingenuous at bare minimum. Jim Crow laws were reprehensible and were in large part passed by Good Ole Democrat boys.
    If voter ID is so suppressive or that it disenfranchises certain demographics then why is it the National Law in Mexico and other "progressive" Nations?

    1. Dear Anonymous,
      At "bare minimum," Jim Crow voting laws were used to keep blacks from voting.

      Look at the chart above. The group most affected by photo ID laws are blacks, fully 25 percent. This meets the "bare minimum of being "analagous."

      Yes they were passed by Democrats, making similar attempts today by Republicans equally "reprehensible."

      Not sure what Mexico has to do with a discussion about American voting laws, but the fact is the only problem it solves is "in-person voter fraud."

      Not one case has been prosecuted in Pennsylvania. So why pass a law solving a non-existent problem that disenfranchises 24 percent of black voters?

      The effect is the same as Jim Crow laws.

  5. For the last six years I have voted in the same place and lived in the same residence. This year I had to show ID and since I did not bring it in with me they gave me a hard enough time that I went to my car and got ID. People were calling for other people to come address the problem. What problem?? It certainly was not mine. I did nothing different. I would normally stand my ground but the fuss was so loud that just getting the ID was less invasive of my privacy. Oh by the way did I mention I was carrying a paper with my candidates names written on it?

  6. Evan:

    I guess 24 percent of black adults are "unfairly" unable to purchase certain cold and sinus medication? Or board an aircraft? Or any other of the numerous activities where proof of identity is required?

    1. And which of those things are a central guarantee of Democracy?

    2. Thank Goodness we don't live in a democracy, we live in a republic.

      If I were to embrace that tact, then I must question myself as to why it is that I must show proof of identity, receive a license, and possibly endure a 48 hour waiting period in order to exercise my God given right as acknowledged and protected under the Second Amendment to the US Constitution? And then register any of the firearms I choose to exercise that right with?

    3. First, if you think that God has anything to do with a right to a weapon that allows you to kill other human beings, than I am afraid you are in for a very big, very unpleasant surprise after you die my friend.

      God has rules about that kind of thing as I understand it.

      Second, you are correct. This is a Republic.

      In case you're confused, here's what it means: "a government in which supreme power resides in a body of citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by elected officers and representatives responsible to them and governing according to law."

      Please take note of the "body of citizens entitled to vote" portion of that definition.

      The problem addressed in this blog is about denying the right to vote to a "body of citizens entitled to vote," (in your beloved Constitution I might add) by requiring a photo ID to solve a problem that has not been proven to exist.

      What you suggest is to deny a Constitutional right to people because of something you think might be happening somewhere in small numbers.

      If that is the republic you want to live in, I suggest you begin considering a move to central or Southeast Asia.