Just Because We Won Doesn’t Mean Millions Weren’t Disenfranchised. My “Voter Security Act.”
Democrats won big Tuesday. Not only did President Obama rake in 126 more Electoral Votes than Mitt Romney, but nearly 3-Million more of the “Popular Vote”. Many Republicans, in licking their wounds following Tuesday’s shellacking, point to one stat to make them feel better: “President Obama dropped 6 Million in the popular vote from 2008 to 2012″, thereby “proving sinking approval levels.” No, there are a number of more likely explanations for Obama’s decreased draw of the popular vote, and chief among them is all the borderline-criminal attempts at voter suppression we saw across the country in just the past two years. I’m quick to remind people that “just because we won the election doesn’t mean millions of voters weren’t disenfranchised.” We just won big enough that it didn’t matter.
First off, the numbers: In 2008, just over 129-million people voted (69.4M + 59.9M). In 2012, only 120-million people voted (61.9M + 58.6M). That’s a reduction of just under 9-million fewer voters overall. But Democrats weren’t the only ones to see their numbers drop. A decline of 7.5-million Democratic votes means a decline of 1.3-million GOP votes as well. Considering that voter suppression laws targeted the Democrats’ demographics most (poor, the infirm, minorities and the young), it’s no surprise that in the end fewer of them voted.
And even after state after state was ordered to halt their voter obstruction efforts… “Voter ID”, “reduction in Early Voting days”, and “extra long ballots” designed to slow down voting to create long lines designed to turn voters away (most notably hourly workers, the disabled and the elderly)… they still continued to post billboards, run TV & Print ads and “accidentally” failed to update their websites to tell people about the fact that those laws would not be in effect on Election Day. It’s no coincidence that Florida, which passed “Voter ID” and cut Early Voting days from 14 to just 8 was the last to finish voting with it’s results not being certified until four days after the election… and this is AFTER Florida’s results would have NO impact on the outcome of the election. Just imagine if it had! I GUARANTEE we STILL would not know the result today. This is completely unacceptable!
(Note there were long lines in some safely Blue states as well: New York, Maryland, New Jersey, etc. But chalk that up mostly due to Hurricane Sandy.)
I personally believe that had it not of been for all the attempts at blatant voter suppression across the country, President Obama might have won an additional 2-3 million votes, bringing him closer to his 2008 Popular Vote totals. I like to tell people: “If the GOP’s ideas are so great, why do they feel the need to restrict voting? You only do that when you know your ideas are unpopular and can’t win any other way.”
The worst thing that we could do now is become complacent and think Voter Obstruction is not as big an issue as once thought. Not only could voter suppression tactics potentially swing an election in the future, but think about all the Republicans out there right now challenging the notion of whether or not President Obama actually won “a mandate” to pursue HIS policies over those of the GOP? (I’ll save the discussion over “how many votes equal a mandate” for another day.) Hey, “he only won by 3-million votes! That’s just 0.6% of the total vote!” Still think losing votes even when you win isn’t a big deal?
I think now is the perfect time to push for election reform. No longer facing reelection himself, with the next big election two full years away, there is no better time to push for it. Even President Obama in his victory speech Tuesday night pointed to the long lines on Election Day, saying, “Oh, by the way. We have to fix that!”, to which the crowd cheered.
So I propose “The Electronic Voting Security Act”. Due to our sheer size, electronic voting is here to stay. There’s just no way we can get rid of electronic voting and switch to pen & paper the way they do in Australia. But there is NO excuse for having Millions of people voting into “Black Boxes”… built by private corporations using “proprietary” software protected from scrutiny as “trade secrets”… that provide no confirmation whatsoever that your vote was tallied correctly. So here is my list of proposed features in
- Every voting machine must produce a hard copy print out of your voting selections, which you may then review and drop into a sealed ballot box that can be called upon should a recount become necessary. This provides both the immediacy of the electronic result with the security of paper ballots. It would also make “electronic vote tampering” far less likely if people know the result can simply be verified in a hand recount. Should those results differ, there would be no question of election tampering and immediately trigger a criminal investigation. We would NEVER deposit our money into an ATM that doesn’t give us a receipt. Why on Earth should we entrust something even more valuable… our vote… to some “sealed black box”?
- “Open Source” election software ONLY – Private contractors may still bid to compete on who actually makes the machines, but the software that runs on those machines will be standardized “Open Source” code written by a non-partisan elections board (most likely the Treasury Dept) and released into the public-domain. This means ANYONE can then scrutinize the code for flaws, backdoors, or other vote-manipulation code, and bring forth a challenge if they believe it somehow favors one candidate/Party over another. No more proprietary “secret software” or suspicious last-minute patches or conflicts of interest casting doubt into the minds of voters as to whether or not their vote will be recorded correctly. “Touch screen voting machines” have long been the scourge of election-monitors everywhere, and Election Day video of a voting machine registering a vote for “Romney” when “Obama” was selected (but not “Obama” when the candidate below him was selected) didn’t help matters, and if I had my druthers, I’d ban them entirely. But I feel that once “printouts” are added to voting machines and voters can confirm their vote was recorded correctly, we should see a lot fewer of these calibration “accidents”.
- No more long lines. – A number should be calculated and agreed upon balancing the “number of machines per number of registered voters in each district.” I’m not entirely sure what that number should be… perhaps one machine and one Early Voting day for every 1,000 voters? Someone needs to come up with a standardized figure and require every county in every state to comply. If lines persist, more machines should be provided to the precinct
free-of-chargeuntil long lines are no longer a problem.
- Likewise, no one should have to travel more than 10-miles to get to a polling station. Voters should be allowed to ride public transportation for free to their polling place on election day the same way many are allowed to ride for free when called for Jury Duty in cities across the country. This would also be of great benefit to the elderly, many of whom no longer drive.
- And on that note, Make Election Day a national holiday. – preferably a paid holiday because poor voters can least afford to lose a day of work, but I know Republicans would totally balk at that idea. The simple fact of the matter is that making time to vote on a workday can be exceedingly difficult. If you vote early in the morning before work, there’s the chance you may be late to work that morning. If you vote in the evenings, you must make sure to get there before the polls close. Early voting helps, but then the burden of the cost of additional voting days falls upon the state. People should not be worried about squeezing “voting” into their schedule.
- Auto-registration upon receiving a Social Security #. – With all the ridiculous hype over the nonexistent threat of “non-citizens voting”, if would be much simpler if every person were automatically registered to vote upon receiving their Social Security number (which only citizens get). And to any Trolls or nitpickers that wish to point out how many people receive a SS# at birth and not eligible to vote for another 18 years… uh… we know their age when we give them the number, and will know if someone tries to use that number before they are eligible.
- Implementation of “Instant Runoff Voting” (IRV). – If you aren’t familiar with “IRV”, here’s a great video primer:
Basically, when you vote in a race with more than two candidates, you pick your preferred candidate first followed by your second choice (and so on) simultaneously should that candidate fail to make it into the Top 2. (Note: the video makes one mistake at the 2:00 mark. In a race with three candidates, you would only get two choices, not three.) With the advent of electronic voting, such a system is now easier than ever. And the benefits? No more Spoilers. No more elections being won by candidates with less than 50% of the vote. No more “two Party only” system. No more voting for “the lesser of two evils”. No more concern over “throwing your vote away”. With IRV, you can vote for Third Party candidates without fear of “helping the Party you hate win”. You could have voted for Nader in 2000 even if you lived in a swing state without worry over whether you cost Al Gore the election. And Rick Perry couldn’t have won reelection as governor of Texas in 2006 with just 39% of the vote because the GOP helped fund two “Independent” candidates to split the anti-Perry vote three ways. Sound nice? It’s no dream. It’s “Instant Runoff Voting”. And we need it. Now.
If Republicans continue to insist on ridiculous “Voter photo ID” requirements that amount to an illegal “poll tax” (if not simply a means of making it more difficult for the less-mobile to vote), I propose biometrics… thumb print, retinal scanners, etc… at every polling place. No need to “obtain” an ID; You ARE the ID! Simply record every voter’s biometrics at the next election and then compare that print to the one on record in successive elections. Republicans may balk at the cost of adding such scanners, but they had no problem passing off the cost of obtaining a useless “Voter ID” onto the voters. If they REALLY believe “voter identification” is a serious problem worthy of the expense, let them put their money where their mouth is.
As you might imagine, Floridians are getting pretty freakin’ tired (as is the rest of the country) of being a laughing stock every four years, repeatedly taking days to produce an accurate (?) count of that states’ votes. And this year, after taking nearly four days to finally figure out who won the state, Florida residents are understandably demanding an overhaul of that states’ voting procedures. The entire event was one big partisan mess, as Governor Rick Scott first pushed through (unconstitutional) Voter ID laws, followed by cutting Early Voting from 14 days to just eight. And we saw Republican governors across the nation attempted to duplicate this “creative chaos” in their own states for partisan advantage. NO ONE should be able to play partisan political games with something so integral to our democracy as “voting”.
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