Over the last several years, we’ve seen an intensive battle over who gets to vote and who doesn’t!
We’ve come a long way since the vote was limited to property-owning white males. We now have almost universal suffrage. I say almost universal because we make exceptions for age, legal status, incarceration and state of residence.
First of all, universal suffrage should be universal as it pertains to American citizenry. Everybody (including present and past incarcerated individuals as well as the young and the citizens of Arizona) has a stake in the outcome, so they should have a say.
I can already envision people getting their backsides up over letting criminals and kids vote. I’ll get to them in a few paragraphs.
Universal Suffrage Ain’t Universal
Right now, I’d like to drop a couple “fact bombs” on you.
To quote fairvote.org
The right to vote is the foundation of any democracy. Yet most Americans do not realize that we do not have a constitutionally protected right to vote. While there are amendments to the U.S. Constitution that prohibit discrimination based on race (15th), sex (19th) and age (26th), no affirmative right to vote exists.
More than nine million American citizens are denied the same right to vote that they would enjoy if living in another part of the country. Several states deny voting rights for life to anyone once convicted of a felony. Children of American families living abroad often cannot vote when they reach voting age. American citizens living in Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands can be drafted into the military but are unable to vote for their Commander-in-Chief. Congress governs the District of Columbia more directly than any other state, yet the more than a half million citizens living in the District have no voting representation in Congress.
In my not-so-humble opinion, no matter what the U.S. Constitution says or does not say, VOTING IS A RIGHT OF AMERICAN CITIZENSHIP! It is not a “privilege” or a “state’s rights issue” as some of the hacks on the troglodyte edge of the political spectrum would have you believe.
Voting requirements should be uniform throughout the states and territories. Just because you live in one state instead of another is no dammed reason to be barred from voting.
The Ballot Box Battle
That’s not even counting the assault on voting rights currently going on in almost every Republican controlled statehouse under the guise of combating almost non-existent voter fraud. (13 cases of in-person voter impersonation out of 649,000,000 votes cast between 2000 and 2010.)
Repuglicans have been pushing voter I.D. laws and other forms of vote suppression. Almost everyone is in favor of honest elections, so this is a pretty easy sell. The problem is, that the remedies seem to disenfranchise a disproportionate number of people who don’t normally vote for Repugs.
However, you wanna talk about voter fraud? Let’s talk about it!
There has been voter fraud violations, but not by in-person voter impersonation. And, interestingly, Repugs have been the ones caught doing it.
From the Colorado and Florida Republican “embarrassments” of 2012, through 2016 (as more and more evidence shows Repugs conspiring to aid Russian voter manipulation) to a North Carolina Repug pastor trying to steal an election in 2018, the headlines have been about fraud committed by Repugs, not the other party.
The last several national elections have been replete with pics and videos of long lines at the poling places. This was due in large to a number of red states reducing voting days and hours. Not only that, but several got very creative in limiting absentee ballots.
Snail Mail Voting
At the same time, some states have been working to increase voting stats. One proven method for that was “voting by mail.” Currently, 22 states allow some form of that, but only Oregon and Colorado make it apply to all elections. As a consequence, in 2016, Oregon had 68% of eligible voters casting ballots and Colorado had 71.2%. The national average was 61.4%
‘Motor Voting’ and Automatic Voter Registration
Oregon pioneered “automatic voter registration” (AVR) in 2015. (You get your driver’s license and you’re automatically registered to vote, in an “opt-out” system.) As a result, they increased voter registration by 300,000.
Since then, 11 other states have joined the movement. Four of those states have expanded AVR, since not everybody gets a drivers license.
Maryland, for example will register people when they interact with various state agencies, such as those dealing with the poor or disabled.
As Maryland Del. Eric Luedtke, who sponsored the legislation, explained it,
At its core, it’s a voting rights question. The registration process is a barrier to people exercising their right to vote so we’re trying to make it easier.
Now, as to criminals voting? American criminals (past or present), no matter what their crime(s), haven’t had their citizenship taken away. They are still American citizens and should be free to exercise their rights.
36 states have laws prohibiting prisoners from voting. 14 continue to disenfranchise those on probation and parole. 12 had made it a lifetime ban. That’s “had,” because Florida and Virginia just changed their stance. Florida by way of the ballot box and Virginia by the governor’s executive order.
As the Terry McAuliffe, the Virginia governor put it,
They’re out, they pay taxes, they’re back in society, they should be able to vote. I was only doing what I thought was right.
The Gerber Block?
As far as kids voting, I’m not advocating a “Gerber Block” of voters. There has to be some common sense applied to this.
Under Common Law, the age of reason is seven years old and children 14 and older are considered fully responsible. Just to err on the safe side, I’d lower the age to 16.
Oregon seems to be on the same wavelength, since they are currently considering a law that would lower the age to 16. State Sen. Shemia Fagan (D-Portland) used the example of the Parkland students to explain the rationale.
It’s time to lower the voting age in Oregon and give young people a chance to participate at the ballot about decisions that affect their homes, their clean air and clean water future, their schools, and as we’ve seen, their very lives.
The executive director of the youth grassroots organization Bus Project, Samantha Gladu, said 16- and 17-year-olds are engaged and smart enough to cast informed votes.
They know that we have to take action urgently on issues like education funding, health care, climate justice and gun violence in particular. I’m also hearing a lot from 16- and 17-year-olds about the need for criminal justice reform and the need to stop mass incarceration.
If the legislation passes, since it’s a state constitution modification, it’ll be voted on in the 2020 general election.
Where Do We Go From Here?
Nationally, Democrats are talking about making election day a national holiday to increase voter participation.
Republicans are against the idea. They call it a “power grab!” And, in a sense, it is! It’s a “power grab” by the people. Historically, when more people vote, Repug election chances slip.
And, one last thing, the Electoral College has got to go!!! It was put in the Constitution to keep the big states (MA, NY, & VA) from dominating the presidential elections. It didn’t even work back then. Eight of the first 10 presidents were from MA, NY & VA.
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