Adam L. Silverman, PhD*
Earlier in the week COL Lang wrote about a proposal to get the voluminous amounts of money out of US politics and political campaigns through the creation of a constitutional amendment that would reverse not only the recent Citizens United ruling, but the far older Buckley Vs. Valeo decsion that gave us that in regards to politics money is equal to protected speech under the First Amendment.
But there is something else that Americans need to keep their eyes on, which is the concerted efforts to disenfranchise voters, gerrymander the electoral college vote, as well as overall election system security. So lets take these one at a time. The disenfranchisement of voters has taken many forms over the years in the US, but over the past forty-six years since the passage of the Voting Rights Act it has tended to be a one sided affair: an attempt to keep minority, disabled, some elderly, and younger voters from being able to cast their ballots. While this has ranged from Operation Eagle Eye (presided over by William Rhenquist) to voter caging by sending mail to addresses on voter rolls and then challenging eligibility based on returned mail** (for which the Republican Party is under a court order to restrain from, but which they still engage in) efforts at voter disenfranchisement, which is itself a type of voter fraud, have been amped way up. The Bush (43) Administration's US Attorneys firing scandal revolved around the attempt to push the US Attorneys to bring partisan voter fraud investigations and indictments. The only problem was that there was, and still is, precious little voter registration and casting fraudulent ballots actually happening in the US. The most recent efforts are state level attempts to push through legislation regarding voter identification (this goes back to our discussion of ALEC here at SST as they are the ones pushing the model legislation out) to resolve the virtually non-existent fraudulent voting problem and to PA's interest in splitting its electoral college vote for the 2012 presidential election. NYU's Brennan Center's recent report on the effect of the new voting laws indicated that 5 million Americans eligible to vote will have significantly harder times doing so in the 2012 elections. This is the result of the need to get a state issued photo ID (and before anyone says "so what's the big deal?" the issue is that locales to issue them are being closed as cost cutting measures in areas with the highest concentrations of voters without them), as well as the reduction of early voting days and/or hours and the attempt to scare college students*** into not voting with threats of prosecution (college students, as well as deployed military and governmental personnel, are also two of the biggest targets for vote caging).
Basically we have a voting system that in many places seems intended not to instill confidence in the citizenry. When we couple all of this with the wacky hodgepodge of fifty different sets of state electoral laws (because as currently envisioned federal elections in the US are structured according to state law and know two states have the exact same rules), some of which are further confused by the states allowing each county to establish its own protocols, combined with active attempts to prevent some Americans from voting and we have a system that is designed to fail. If we actually lump this together with our wacky need to spend two years conducting every federal election (congresspeople, 1/3 of our senators, and the potential presidential contenders all seem to be almost constantly running), the grossly exorbitant sums involved with running nearly perpetual campaigns, and the now bizarrely mutated primary system by which we select candidates, especially the presidential ones, and its amazing the system does not completely seize up. Our electoral system is in dire need of reform - one set of rules and procedures applying to everyone in every state would be a good start.
* Adam L. Silverman is the Culture and Foreign Language Advisor at the US Army War College. The views expressed here are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the US Army War College and/or the US Army.
** I was actually subject to a voter caging attempt while deployed in Iraq in 2008. I had my mail set up to be forwarded, from my previous address, to my Mother's residence in FL, where I had also set up my driver's license, permanent non-deployed residency, and voter registration (I did this all in JUL 2007, a year before the next election and just prior to my leaving for my pre-Iraq training). As the trick in caging is to mark the mail "do not forward", when it was processed to be sent to me it bounced back to the sender (whoever was being paid to do this form of direct mail scam - usually they send a piece of candidate advertisement or issue advocacy mail). While I did get and vote by absentee ballot while in Iraq, once I got back to the US I got a letter, well after the election, from the local supervisor of elections office asking me to verify my residency at the listed address. Basically I had been voter caged. I have no idea if my absentee ballot was counted or discarded in the 2008 election.
*** I just love the Maine Secretary of State's comments that they have found no evidence of voter fraud (as in fraudulent casting of ballots) in Maine, but that its a serious problem and threat so he's pushing for legislation to remedy it. Even though it does not exist. As one of the articles, and the Brennan Report indicate, in the past decade, with over 300 million ballots cast, there have been only eighty-four confirmed instances, and therefore prosecutable offenses, of fraudulent casting of ballots voter fraud.