Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

U.S. needs one set of nonpartisan rules for federal elections

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The United States prides itself as being “one nation” with a “state’s rights” approach to solving problems, and “problems” that don’t even exist. So we get a jumbled set of rules all under one roof.

For a lot of things in our lives, this approach isn’t all that bad, even if confusing. For one particular element in our lives, the practice of 50 different rules is a serious threat to our democracy.

In electing your state reps, state senators, and governors, each state can have a semblance of leeway, if you believe that states rights is the way to go. True, you could easily violate federal rules on voting rights, as the South did for 100 years following the Civil War, but somehow we accepted them as “legitimate.” But this approach should not apply, in any circumstance, for federal seats.

We need a federal body, truly non-partisan, to run federal elections. No poll taxes, no narrow voter ID issues, no felony rules: every U.S. citizen 18 years and older should automatically have the right and privilege to vote in federal elections. In the land of the free and the home of the brave, we haven’t had anything close to this approach.

We also need stronger, tougher rules and laws (and enforcement of said laws) against anyone who interferes in the democratic voting process, whether that be robocalls, physical intimidation, threats of deportation, calls to say the election got moved to the next day or the next week.

The GOP sweep of 2010 brought a rather large flurry of laws designed to limit who can vote in all elections, local, state, and federal. And while painful on many levels, and designed to drive away people who would vote for someone besides the GOP, these laws should be unconstitutional. These attempts to thwart democracy should be laughed off as pathetic. Then again, when you tell a young person in 2011 that for 100 years, the United States systemically excluded people from voting who were able to legally vote, that would have been laughed off if it weren’t true.

I have voted in the same high school for the last decade or so. I haven’t had to show a ID or even a voter card; I do have to sign in and they check to see that my signature matches. This policy has always seemed reasonable.

In Wisconsin, as in other states, they want you to present a voter ID. In itself, this seems fine, but the law provides that you aren’t allowed to vote without a voter ID. Elderly and poor aren’t as likely to have a voter ID, and Wisconsin is working on closing DMV offices in Democratic districts, ensuring that some won’t be able to vote.

If states want to screw themselves over in their own elections, that might be their right. But states have no business setting election rules for federal elections.

One set of rules for all federal elections; having a non-partisan body handle all of the rules and enforcement — simple democracy. After all, in the countries where we are supposedly exporting democracy, we wouldn’t stand for the chaos that rules federal elections in the United States. These shenanigans wouldn’t be tolerated overseas; why do we justify them at home?

As for the “fraud” these new laws are trying to stop, they are figments of imagination. And even if somehow a few acts of voter fraud existed, we have laws to take care of those miniscule instances. Far more people would be denied the legitimate right to vote, a fraud on the American people.

For a democracy to truly work, you need a sense of trust that the process is relatively untainted. Liberals can claim the 2000 and 2004 elections had serious problems. While the fact-based evidence isn’t as obvious, conservatives ask questions about the 1960 and 2008 elections.

Both of the major groups should feel comfortable with the federal election process, and right now, they don’t.

This non-partisan board shouldn’t be set up to make everyone happy; they have to react based on fact, not conspiracy. Nothing can help those who are stuck on birth certificates in only one direction.

The rest of us, left and right, need this non-partisan board so we can trust the political process by first trusting those that get elected. And those that work heartily to make sure people can’t vote should be punished, whether in office or not; doing so will bring more trust to the political process.

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Written by democracysoup

August 19, 2011 at 7:12 am

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