Saturday, May 14, 2011

Why Should We Protect The Vote?

America has long led the world in democracy.  Our country was formed on the notion of no taxation without representation.  Revolution happened because the citizens of the colonies did not have a say in the laws enacted upon them by the English.  For 200 years we progressively fought and changed voting laws in this country to provide equality and a voice for all Americans in elections.

This is why I think it's imperative that we protect the vote.  And by this I don't mean enacting voter id laws, I mean we need to ensure that all eligible voters can vote, and make it as easy as possible for them to vote.

Like all freedoms, this voting freedom comes with some risk of abuse.   You've all heard stories of Chicago and the thousands of supposedly dead people that voted in elections in the 1980's.  Without a doubt these stories are partially true and voter fraud was real back then.

So how does voter fraud like that happen?  Well it was easy back then because everything was manual.  All lists were manual, registration was manual and there wasn't an easy way to ensure that someone wasn't voting in multiple districts. 

However with the advent of computers we can now easily ensure that people are not registering in multiple districts.  We can easily ensure that people in prison aren't voting, and we can easily ensure that the dead aren't voting.  This completely eliminates the primary methods that were used in Chicago to throw the vote to a particular politician.  In Wisconsin, from 2008 through 2010 there were less than a dozen cases of voter fraud identified in the state.  Virtually all of those were convicted felons voting before they were off supervision.  Something that voter ID laws wouldn't have caught anyway.

So if voter fraud is bad, why shouldn't we enact stricter laws about voting?  Well, I feel that voting is the backbone of America.  This is one of the few constitutional rights that every American has and should exercise regularly.  It's the duty of government to ensure that this right isn't infringed upon and that we do everything we can to encourage citizens to vote.

America is seeing a rash of voter ID laws, all of which claim to be protecting the integrity of the vote, when in fact they are simply making it harder for certain classes of people to vote.

These laws, while seemingly innocent, have the effect of stifling the vote of the poor, elderly and handicap citizens.  They do so by making citizens have to go to their DMV and get a state ID or drivers license.  They require citizens to purchase these licenses/IDs with money that they may not have available.  And most importantly they require them to travel and take time away from work to get these IDs.

If you've ever been to the DMV you know that it is a time consuming process on the best of days.  On the worst of days you may have to take a whole day to go get your ID.  In some parts of the country the closest DMV facility is an hour drive or more away.  For the wealthy that may not be a hardship.  But for someone who is working at, or near, minimum wage, and gets no paid vacation time this may be an unaffordable endeavor for them.

These laws will require that anyone who moves go get an updated ID so that they can vote.  For the poorest Americans, this could mean several trips to the DMV in a year if they have moved more than once.  This puts undue hardship on the poor, and elderly so that they can exercise their constitutionally given right to vote.

Yes it is critical that we protect the vote in America, but this means ensuring that all citizens are provided fair and easy access to voting.

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