Thursday, January 13, 2022

Voting Rights 2022: Senators, Do You Know What You Are Doing?

Update: 1/18/2021 As the Senate debates voting rights, advocates are rushing to provide documentation that the US is on the verge of another election crisis. Published findings vary based the biases of the news outlet or advocacy group.  It is interestingly that states listed as "Restrictive" make up less than 20% of the country.  In most cases, what classifies as "Restrictive" is how convenient elections are not how fair or secure the process. Unlike the Jim Crowe era, property ownership, literacy, ethnic background and gender are not cited by any of these studies as factors for denying the right to vote.  The danger to democracy is making voting so simple that it becomes meaningless. 

With millions (if not billions) of pages on record that detail how all levels of government work, it is understandable that the average citizen has a minimal knowledge of the rules. Nevertheless, the founding fathers anticipated that unintended consequences were a very real possibility in a representative democracy. Generally speaking, a handful of statutes meant to protect elected officials from honest mistakes, now, seem to contribute to the gridlock, financial obsession and poor decisions common in Congress.  

As President Biden lobbies for another landmark (???) voting rights bill, the question has to be "Do Senators know what they are doing AND what might be the negative impact of this legislation on future elections?"  History tells us, good legislation comes from forethought and consensus, not deals. Bad legislation comes from quick action, personal agendas and legal protection that make officials brazen and irresponsible. 

Why Support the Filibuster?

For discussion here, the  provision of executive privilege (also known as qualified immunity) and a thinly worded non-binding clause that releases future officials from maintaining laws which are no longer financially or socially viable come to mind. Together these two provisions have been held up in the courts to the point that officials cannot be held accountable for much.  It is the provision of qualified immunity that appears to have emboldened several republicans to take actions meant to decertify several state and local elections.  With a do-over clause firmly in the hands of any future official, current officials all too frequently feel justified in passing questionable and often unnecessary legislation for special interest groups.  

In the end, it is the filibuster that only stands between a power driven political party (Democrat or Republican) and serves the majority of American interests. 

Shaming is NOT Professional Behavior

Since the quick demise of the Build Back Better spending package just before Christmas, high ranking Democratic leaders including the President, Vice-President and both Congressional leaders have chosen to resort to the unprofessional teenage tactic of shaming the American people.  VP Harris first told the country it would no longer have the respect of the World and then yesterday, voiced what seemed to be a personal admonishment of stubborn members of congress. Neither plays well for a country that has listened to this prattle for the better part of six years. Threats and recriminations by Schumer, Pelosi and Biden have done little to move the discussion to a more amicable tone. 

New York Times Photo

Blank Check Legislation

While polls are not concerned about Why? Biden's administration has such low polling numbers, this average citizen would say a contributing factor is a "Blank Check/ Trust Me" mentality.  Far too many pieces of legislation are passed without taking the time to discuss how they would work.  This Voting Rights bill as well as the other bills which have foundered during this past year all seem long on promises and short on details.  Some outcomes are a given and are likely to cause widespread difficulties for states which have a long history of fair and safe elections. It should be remembered that nearly three-quarters of the adult population voted in 2020 and no widespread corruption was found anywhere.  Those figures alone question whether this is necessary legislation or just political posturing. 

Federal Micro-rmanagement is Costly and Ineffective

From the implementation of Environmental Protection laws and federally mandated education programs to administration of Medicaid, Welfare and Food Stamps, federal oversight has been costly and bureaucratically top heavy for states.  Rarely providing full funding for the programs that it institutes, local businesses and citizens pay more in local taxes in order to comply with the expense of paperwork and staffing. There is nothing in the Voting Right Act of 2021 that would not put additional burden on the states.  Here are some findings to consider before support a such Blank Check legislation. 

  • Making Election Day a National Holiday will not change accessibility but could increase errors. Election officials, as government employees, would have the day off. Those that  are responsible for the security of the election process could open the door to countless challenges if they did not perform their duty. Is this a What was Congress thinking moment?

  • Most polling sites are open at least 12 hours out of the day, some longer  There are very few people who cannot arrange their schedule to vote if they chose to do so. Remember 150 million people voted in 2020. 

  • Mandating mail-in ballots for everyone is costly and time consuming. Mail-in ballots have the greatest chance of being mishandled as we saw in the aftermath of the 2020 election. 

  • Many states already meet the minimum standard publicized by advocates of this legislation. As an accomplished negotiator, would it not be a better use of the President's time to target the few states who do not offer these provisions and move toward a common basis of understanding.  Why make all states suffer but allow more conservative states to come around to a more moderate in their own time. Residents of these states have the right to hold their own lawmakers accountable without intervention from the federal government.

From what seems to be in print, there is nothing in this bill that offers any real protection to voters that is not already available.  Why our elected officials feel the need to push their will on 330 million people when all that results is more problems makes little sense. American citizens are neither dumb nor mindless but they are tired of being characterized as bigots, racists, gun toting vigilantes, or uneducated puppets.  Until Congress shows respect for Americans and ignores the polls and studies, citizens will continue to be unimpressed with both political parties.