America’s Wake-Up Call — Voting & Voters — Part III

In Two weeks ago, we looked at the reasons people give for not voting, and in last Wednesday’s post, we looked at the demographics … who isn’t voting, and why.  When we put those two together, we see why some people aren’t voting, for the system is designed to make it difficult for them.  In this, the final post on voters not voting, we will look at some ways to effect change.  There are actually three distinct groups of non-voters:  those who are at least partly disenfranchised, for whom the system has made voting a difficult task, those who are either too lazy or apathetic to stir themselves to vote.  The solutions are different for each of these groups, so we need to look at them separately.  But first, a disclaimer.  There is no panacea, no simple, single solution that will all of a sudden solve the problem of nearly half the eligible voters failing to vote.  We must find a multitude of small steps that all contribute toward bringing us closer to the goal.

Registration

The first step in the process of voting is to register.  At present, the onus for registering lies solely with the voter. Every state’s registration rules are a bit different.  In 37 states, one can register online, but in the other 13, registration must be done in person.  For many, this means taking time off work, and possibly difficulties finding transportation.  Online registration is a great idea, but it needs to be made well-known to all, for many are not aware that it is possible, or how to begin the process.There are ways to remind people:  workplaces and churches could place posters reminding people to register and listing places, such as DMV as well as the website.  Schools could send home flyers reminding parents to register.  And to be really proactive, districts could mail registration forms to all homes in the district.  Another, even better idea is automatic registration, such as is used in countries like Canada and Germany where voter turnout rates are in the 90 percentile range.  According to the Brennan Center for Justice, “Eleven states and the District of Columbia have already approved automatic voter registration, and 19 states have introduced automatic registration proposals in 2018. In addition, the New Jersey Legislature passed automatic voter registration on April 12th, and the bill is awaiting Governor Phil Murphy’s signature.”

Registration may well be half the battle and some combination of the above ideas would likely have a significant impact on voter turnout.

The Disenfranchised

This group consists of people who are typically lower income or minorities, for whom just getting through the day and feeding their family is hard.  State regulations have made the process of voting harder for these people by closing polling stations in their neighborhoods, shortening the hours of polling stations, and requiring a driver’s license or other state-issued identification that they may not have.  The solution is simple, right?  But with the repeal of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, there is no longer a requirement for federal oversight, and the states are largely free to do whatever they want, within certain boundaries.  Section 5 needs desperately to be reinstated, but that will not likely happen soon, if ever.  Meanwhile?

With a republican majority in Congress, it is unlikely that legislation to help make voting easier for the disenfranchised would fly, for those it would benefit are more likely to vote for a democrat.  One partial solution is what happened in Pennsylvania recently, when the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the state’s district map must be re-drawn in order to be more fair.  The ruling was unsuccessfully challenged by republican lawmakers, and the map has been redrawn.  While gerrymandered maps are not technically a barrier to voting, in the sense that they may cause polling stations to be farther from a person’s home or workplace and thus require greater travel time, the reality is that they can be a barrier.  I would like to see the Supreme Courts in every state follow the lead of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

One thing that many of us can do is actually help people get to their polling places.  There are many volunteers who spend the entire election day driving elderly people and others without transportation to and from the polling stations.  A reader of this blog left me this comment when I first published this post in April 2018:

“I have a listing of homeowners and rental units in the town in which I live..and together with other “ladies” from the Resist Movement in OK, go door to door and hand out voter registration papers..we will offer to assist in filling them out, and we then offer a ride to the polling places on voting days. You’d be amazed how many do not vote because they thought they “weren’t allowed to vote” after having misdemeanor convictions!”

I just wanted to hug this lady!!!  She is doing something to make the world a better place, and to her, my thumbs are all up!

Other measures that have proven helpful in getting voters to the polls include:

  • Early voting, which allows any qualified voter to cast a ballot during a specified period prior to the actual election day.
  • Absentee voting, whereby voters may request an absentee ballot and return it either by mail or in person, with or without an excuse. Presently, 27 states and the District of Columbia allow absentee voting without needing an excuse, 20 others require an excuse.
  • All-mail voting, where a ballot is automatically mailed to every eligible voter (no request or application is necessary). Three states, Oregon, Washington and Colorado currently use all-mail voting.  Funny story about this … I periodically make comments to my girls about projects I am working on, usually unsolicited and out of the blue.  As I was working on this one, I asked the girls if they were aware that 3 states actually had all-mail voting.  Daughter Chris’ jaw dropped to the ground, thinking I meant “all-male” voting!

early voting map

Voter Apathy

Those who are simply either too lazy, don’t care, don’t like the candidates, or believe that it is a lost cause, may be the most challenging to get to the polls.  To do so will require a plethora of different things, starting with voter education, and involving large amounts of motivating and inspiring techniques.  Unfortunately, these constitute the largest group, some 65% of all the non-voters.  This translates into roughly 58.2 million people!

While I personally believed … still believe … that Hillary Clinton would have been a good president, I admit that she came with some baggage, and was not a particularly ‘lovable’ candidate, did not run an inspired campaign.  Thus, in 2016, it is understandable that many did not like either candidate.  But how to convince these people that it is better to vote for the lesser of two evils than to simply shrug their shoulders and stay at home watching television?

I think the starting point must be in education.  According to Donald Green, a political scientist at Columbia University in New York City, it is up to parents and teachers to stress just how important it is.  Common sense, yes?

I don’t know the answers, but somehow we must find ways to convince these 58.2 million people that their vote counts, that they make a difference, but not sitting home on their patooties.  Talk to friends who say they don’t care.  Join a volunteer group that is going door-to-door talking to people.  Sport a t-shirt with your favourite candidate (I still wear my Obama t-shirt!!!), put a bumper sticker on your car.  Help people to better understand the issues, the candidates.

A recent quote I saw in the New York Times seems apropos:

To many African-American voters in Alabama, Cecil said, “Donald Trump is the living embodiment of the idea that voting doesn’t matter.” Trump is profoundly unfit to be a president — a congenital liar and racist who lost the popular vote by 2.9 million votes. And yet president he is.

This is, I think, one of the biggest hurdles, and while I disagree with the thought process, I understand it.

Conclusion

Given our current system, we will not likely achieve 90% turnout, but I think we can damn well do better than 56%, especially given that those who voted in 2016 were a majority of wealthy, white people, leaving behind a large portion of the citizens, equally important citizens, of this nation.  Because of the results, we have all but lost our voice in our government.  Sure, you can write and call your members of Congress, but I haven’t had a personalized response yet, and I’m never even sure if they hear, but I’m sure they don’t care.  Until November 3rd, and then they will care.  We must send a message, but in order to do so, we all need to speak.  Let’s help make sure more people vote this year.  Let’s all do a few things within our own circle of friends, family & neighbors:

  • Make sure they are registered. If they aren’t offer to help with filling out forms, taking them to register if they cannot do so online.
  • Help them understand the issues and what each candidate stands for.
  • Keep talking about how very important it is that everyone get out and vote, without necessarily pushing a specific candidate.
  • Volunteer to drive people to the polling stations on November 3rd.

It is up to We The People, for we cannot rely on the government to work toward increasing voter turnout.  We need some new blood … let’s make it happen, folks!

America’s Wake-Up Call — Table of Contents

Discord & Dissension — Table of Contents

America’s Wake-Up Call – Voting & Voters — Part II

Last Wednesday, we began with Part I of our three-part reprisal from earlier posts in February & March.  One of the biggest hurdles to free and fair elections in this country are those who don’t vote for one reason or another.  It is always important, for our vote is our voice, but this year so much is riding on the election in November that we felt it was important … nay, critical … to re-post this series about why people don’t vote.


Only 67% of all eligible voters are even registered to vote.  That is only two out of every three adults.  In last week’s post, we looked at the reasons people gave for not voting, some of which were ludicrous, such as “forgot”, “weather”, and “too busy”.  But there are some legitimate reasons that people do not vote.  To understand these, I think it is important to look at some of the demographics of the non-voters.

Race

Among white voters, 73.5% of eligible voters did actually vote in 2016.  But minorities were much less likely to vote, with only 69.7% of African-Americans, 59.4% of Latinos, and the lowest group being Asians at 55.3%.

Age

Not surprisingly, the percentage of eligible voters who vote increases with age:

Age 18 to 24       58.5%

Age 25 to 34       66.4%

Age 35 to 44       69.9%

Age 45 to 54       73.5%

Age 55 to 64       76.6%

Age 65 to 74       78.1%

Age 75 or older 76.6%

But, after the February 2018 Parkland, Florida school shooting,  the percentage of young voters voting took a significant leap in the 2018 mid-term elections.

Education

There is absolutely nothing surprising in this set of statistics:

Less than high school graduate  50.5%

High school graduate      64.1%

Some college     75.3%

Bachelor’s degree            81.2%

Advanced degree            85.8%

Income

Again, no real surprises here:

Less than $20,000           63.7%

$20,000 to $29,999          67.1%

$30,000 to $39,999          71.1%

$40,000 to $49,999          72.6%

$50,000 to $74,999          78.2%

$75,000 to $99,999          81.9%

$100,000 and over          79.6%

While this one isn’t surprising, it is disturbing, for the very people who most need fairness from our government are the least likely to vote to make a difference.

Taken together, when we look at the demographics, look at who is and who isn’t voting, is it any wonder that we currently have a government that is “Of the wealthy white people, By the wealthy white people, and For the wealthy white people”?  They are the ones who vote!

All of the above statistics are understandable when put into context.  There are a number of things that have led to the disenfranchisement of lower income and minority voters.  Consider gerrymandering, redistricting states so that most minorities are grouped into as few as districts as possible so as to be given a much weaker voice than their white counterparts.  I have shared this graphic before, but it is still the clearest, most understandable explanation of how gerrymandering can change the outcome of an election:And then there are the various efforts by many states to make it more difficult for lower income and minorities to vote, such as shortening the hours that polls are open, and closing polling places in poorer or predominantly minority areas. Twenty states do not allow a person convicted of a felony to vote while serving a sentence or while on probation.  Two states, Florida and Virginia, permanently disallow convicted felons voting privileges.

In some cases, voter I.D. may be difficult to obtain.  Consider these cases:

A 96-year-old woman in Tennessee was denied a voter-ID card despite presenting four forms of identification, including her birth certificate. A World War II veteran was turned away in Ohio because his Department of Veterans Affairs photo ID didn’t include his address. Andrea Anthony, a 37-year-old black woman from Wisconsin who had voted in every major election since she was 18, couldn’t vote in 2016 because she had lost her driver’s license a few days before. – New York Times, 10 March 2018

In 1965, Congress passed, and President Lyndon Johnson signed into law, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, perhaps the single most important piece of legislation to come from the Civil Rights movement.  It eliminated certain barriers to voting, such as literacy testing and other requirements that denied many blacks the right to vote.  Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act precluded certain states and districts that had a history of disenfranchising blacks, from implementing any change affecting voting without receiving pre-approval from the U.S. Attorney General or the U.S. District Court for D.C.  But in 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Section 5 by a 5-to-4 vote, freeing nine states, mostly in the South, to change their election laws without advance federal approval.  Chief Justice John Roberts said, essentially, that times had changed and the Court believed racial discrimination was no longer the problem it was in the 1960s.  I wonder if he would still say that today?  Almost immediately on the heels of this ruling, Texas announced new voter identification laws and redistricting maps.  Other states in the South followed suit.

Referring back to last Wednesday’s post, we looked at some of the reasons people gave for not voting.  When we look at the 6% who said they did not vote due to ‘registration problems’, or the 2.7% who claimed ‘inconvenient polling place’, or the 2.6% who said they had ‘transportation problems’, perhaps we can understand those reasons.  Consider the single mom who is not allowed to take time off work, so she goes to vote after work. The polling station in her neighborhood closed last year, so she now has to take a bus to her new polling place 45 minutes away from where she works.  Meanwhile, her children are home alone with nobody to cook their supper, or supervise them.  What would you do?

It is obvious that there are some people who do not vote with good reason.  We need to find solutions to the barriers for minorities and others who are truly disenfranchised.  We also need to find ways to inspire and motivate those who make excuses not to vote, to convince them that their vote is crucial.  And we need to make voting more accessible to all.  In Part III, we will take a look at some things that may contribute to increasing the numbers of people who vote.  There is no single panacea, but I believe there are a number of things that can be done at the federal and state levels, as well as by people like me and you, people who care about our country.  Stay tuned …

America’s Wake-Up Call — Table of Contents

Discord & Dissension — Table of Contents

On The Lies About Voter Fraud …

Looking at the fiasco that was Georgia’s primary election last Tuesday, one cannot help wondering what is going to happen across the nation on November 3rd.  There are so many ways in which the Republican Party has worked tirelessly to disenfranchise certain groups of voters that we must question the fairness of any national election.  November’s election may well be the most important that has ever taken place in the history of this nation, and it may be the one that decides the future of the nation … whether we retain our Constitutional government or trade it for a dictatorship.

In addition to the gerrymandering that caused Trump to gain enough electoral votes to be ushered into the White House after the 2016 election, various states have put into place other restrictive measures, such as closing polling places, voter ID laws, and more.  Add to that the pandemic that is still killing more than a thousand people in this country almost every day, and you can see that mail-in voting is absolutely essential if we are to have anything approaching a free and fair election.  Mail-in voting would negate many of the restrictive rules that disenfranchise so many voters, particularly among the poor and minorities, and it would prevent the sort of fiasco we saw in Georgia on Tuesday.

And yet, Trump and his enablers are doing everything in their power to stop mail-in voting, including destroying the United States Postal Service (USPS).  One of the tactics they are using is claiming that voter fraud is rampant in states where mail-in voting is used.  Today, I give you Robert Reich’s answer to their false claims …

Five Long Months Ahead …

The 2016 election was not a fair and honest election.  If it had been, we would be writing about President Hillary Clinton today.  The election was “rigged”, to use Trump’s own terminology, in ways almost too numerous to count.  Gerrymandering takes top billing, as evidenced by the fact that Hillary Clinton won the election by nearly 3 million votes, yet because of gerrymandered districts, Trump ‘won’ the electoral college.  Other means of disenfranchising poor and minority voters came into play, as did propaganda by Russian entities, as well as Trump’s own dirty campaign.

Our own intelligence agencies tell us that the Russians have been spreading disinformation and propaganda for over a year now, gerrymandered districts have only been re-districted in two states that I’m aware of.  Add to that the crisis of the year, the coronavirus pandemic and … well, how could we possibly have a fair and honest election?  Most states are looking to a mail-in voting system, partial or complete, in November, but Donald Trump is jumping up and down, shrieking at the top of his lungs that it would be unfair to him.  No evidence, just … well, Donnie knows that if states have mail-in voting, people cannot be stopped at the polls, will not have to travel long distances to vote, and in short … far more people are likely to vote if they can do so from the comfort and security of their own home.  Increasing voter turnout is not what Trump wants … can you guess why?  Because those people who are typically disenfranchised are poor and minority voters who would be most inclined to vote for a democrat, the party that believes in putting people first, ahead of profit.

In 2016, only 55.7% of eligible voters actually cast a vote.  Barely over half!  I’ve discussed before the reasons.  Since 1972, the highest voter turnout was in 2008 when people were excited to have an African-American running for office, but even then the percentage of eligible voters that voted was only 58.2%.

Last week, Trump threatened to withhold federal funding from states that switched to mail-in voting, specifically Nevada and Michigan.  Presumably, he figured out that he cannot do that without congressional approval … perhaps one of his overpriced advisors or lawyers told him, so now he has taken a different approach.

“The United States cannot have all Mail In Ballots. It will be the greatest Rigged Election in history. People grab them from mailboxes, print thousands of forgeries and “force” people to sign. Also, forge names. Some absentee OK, when necessary. Trying to use Covid for this Scam!”

Now, you and I know he’s so full of hot air he should be flying by now.  But … there is a very real danger in his spew.  According to former head of DOJ’s civil rights division, Vanita Gupta …

“He is planting the seeds for delegitimizing the election if he loses.  It’s from the playbook. It’ll get more intense as he gets more freaked out.”

In 2016, we heard Trump claim that if he lost, it would be because the election was ‘rigged’ (he seems to like that word a lot, doesn’t he?)  After he won the electoral college, he still claimed the election was ‘rigged’ because his ego couldn’t handle the fact that he had lost the election (popular vote).  If you’ll recall, there were threats of violence among the more radical of his supporters if he were to lose.  Nothing we’re seeing today should surprise us, but …

The danger is greater this year than in 2016 because there is more at stake.  First, it is highly unusual for an incumbent to lose his second term, and it would be as a slap in the face to Trump, who sees himself as the greatest president other than Abraham Lincoln.  Second, while Attorney General William Barr has declared Trump to be ‘above the law’ during his tenure in office … that protection goes away at noon on January 20th 2021 if Trump loses the election.  He is, at that point, an average citizen (albeit a wealthy one with Secret Service protection) and it is not at all unreasonable to think he will face a barrage of lawsuits, likely criminal charges, once he leaves office.

And, of course, there is Trump’s faithful following, mostly either wealthy businessmen who stand to gain under Trump, and evangelicals who will put up with just about anything as long as he promises them he will tear down the wall of separation between church and state, will nominate judges who will strike down the likes of Roe v Wade and Obergefell v Hodges, further shredding civil rights in this nation.  One of his loyal evangelical lapdogs, Rick Wiles, claims that …

“If they take him out, there’s gonna be violence in America. That’s all there is to it….However he leaves, there’s going to be violence in America…There are people in this country — veterans, there are cowboys, mountain men — I mean guys that know how to fight. And they’re going to make a decision that the people who did this to Donald Trump are not going to get away with it. And they’re gonna hunt ’em down.”

Stupid?  Sure … you and I know that, but sadly there are some who think violence is the answer.  It never … NEVER is, but these people carry big guns because they know no other way to make a point, to carry on a civil discourse.

Five months left until election day, folks.  This promises to be the single most contentious election in our lifetimes, mainly because one of the candidates and his party is the most contentious candidate in our lifetimes.  Other factors, such as being in the midst of a pandemic the likes of which we’ve never experienced add to the drama.  I cannot even begin to imagine the atrocities and rhetoric that will be spewed by Trump and the GOP, but I do know it will escalate over the coming months.  Steel yourself, be prepared, don’t let Trump’s rhetoric and the garbage you hear on off-the-wall websites and Fox “News” deter you.  Keep your eye on the ball.  We cannot afford to completely ignore Trump’s hate speech, but we must not let it weaken our resolve to oust him in November.

If I Were In Charge Of This Circus …

Like most of you, I’ve been living in a tumbler of emotions lately, between the daily onslaught of Trumptanic lies, and the up/down/up/down of the democratic primary season.  Add into that the coronavirus and the blatant lies & cover-ups by our administration, and … whew.  We’re tired, we’re exhausted, we’re depressed.  This is not the nation we used to live in, is not the nation we want to live in, is not a nation we recognize.  And so, sometimes we just have to stop for a minute, tune out and let the quiet wash over us, give ourselves time to … breathe, to think.

My thoughts led me down a path … wondering, what would I change if suddenly I were ‘in charge’, if I had the power to effect changes that would end some of the problems this nation faces today.  Where would I even start?

In the movie The Sound of Music with Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer, based on the true story of the Von Trapp family in Austria, one of the songs starts …

♫ Let’s start at the very beginning
A very good place to start ♫

The very beginning, in this case, seems to be the very process that gives us our elected officials all the way up to the very highest office in the land, the presidency.  In the past few decades, the process has been reduced to a factor of who can gather the most money.  This is wrong.  Money is not what’s most important here … the person who has the most wealthy friends, or who can promise his way into garnering the largest contributions is not … NOT the one most qualified for the job.

I don’t want a damn rich politician, nor do I want one who has promised my life away to the rich bitches running the big corporations in order to get elected.

So, for starters I would take the money out of elections.  No campaign contributions over $100, and no contributions at all from lobbying groups such as the NRA or corporations such as fossil fuel or Big Pharma companies.  Nothing.  Private donations up to $100 only.  Media outlets shall give equal air time to the two major candidates in every contest.  So, for example, if ABC News gives a 30-second spot to Mitch McConnell, they must also give a 30-second spot to Amy McGrath, his democratic opponent.

Every utterance a candidate makes will be checked by non-partisan fact checkers and a daily tally will be published in every major media outlet.

Election seasons currently last from inauguration day until four years later.  This is bullshit for a number of reasons.  First, the politician is not doing the people’s work, but instead is campaigning for a full four years.  Second, it is expensive … and more so when you consider that the people are paying for round-the-clock security for the incumbents to flit about the country holding rallies, kissing babies and shaking hands.  Third, it is exhausting to we the people.  We don’t want to see these candidates’ faces on our screens 24/7 for four bloody years! Election seasons will begin on March 1st of the election year, primaries & caucuses will be complete by June 30th, and the respective party’s national conventions held in July.  The candidates can then campaign for three months until election day … plenty of time for them to sicken and disgust us with their rhetoric.  No political ads in the form of email, USPS mail, phone calls, television/radio/internet ads, or political rallies will be allowed prior to the March 1st date.  Violators will be automatically removed from the ballot, no questions asked.

Elections will be held on the first Sunday of November.  That’s right … I said Sunday.  Tuesday is a ridiculous day for elections … people do work for a living, y’know!  Sunday is perfect … few people are required to work on Sunday, so most everybody has the opportunity to go to the polls.  All polls will be required to open at 10:00 a.m. and stay open until 7:00 p.m.  No polls will close early, open late, or close altogether.  Public transportation will run on a weekday schedule on election day, to provide the maximum opportunity to voters who do not have their own transportation to get to the polls.

Every single state will have no excuse absentee voting.  Registration will be automatic upon any of the following:  a) renewal of driver’s license or public identification; b) filing of state tax return; c) enrollment in any school or university.  Other potential voters will be able to register online with proper proof of identification such as driver’s license or identification number, birth certificate number, or social security number.  No registered voters will be removed from the voter rolls until there is credible evidence that the person has either, a) died, or b) moved to a different state.

Finally, districting and the Electoral College will cease to exist for the purpose of presidential elections.  Districts may remain, for the time being, for the purpose of electing representatives to the House of Representatives, and for the purpose of determining each state’s votes based on population density, but for president, each state will tally the popular votes without consideration of districts, and that state’s votes, as determined by current standards per representation based on population density, will go to the candidate with the most popular votes.  Period.  At the end of the day, there will be no need for an electoral college, for there will be no districts and each state will vote according to the will of the people.

So, for example, California has 55 electoral votes based on their population.  If there are 8,753,788 votes for Joe Biden, and 4,483,810 for Donald Trump, then California’s 55 electoral votes go to Joe Biden.  Period.  There is no other option, the districts do not matter.  Biden wins California.  This is fair, in that the states receive a number of votes based on population, and in that there is no difference between the vote of a black person in the ghetto and a rich, white person in Hollywood Hills.  One person, one vote.  Period.

Whew.  I did not know I had so much of this to say about that!  But folks, every single thing I have said here is more fair than the system we have today.  Today, if you are a minority, you will have a harder time even being able to vote, and once you do, your vote is likely diluted due to gerrymandered districts.  If you are a student or a senior citizen, it will be harder for you to vote.  If you are a single, working mom, it will be damn near impossible for you to vote.

From time to time, I may be back with other things I might change “if I were in charge”.  It’s a good way to clear the mind, to categorize the things we take issue with, and to think about a better way of doing things.  The world is not perfect, this country is far from perfect, and people are not perfect, so we will always have a flawed system, but … I really think we could make it better if we all tried.

Discord & Dissension – Part V – Corruption

Today, Jeff tackles corruption in our political system — what and where, why and how — and reminds us why it is going to be so important that we vote in November to remove the most corrupt politicians ever from office. Thank you, Jeff, for this very comprehensive post!

On The Fence Voters

Continuing the project that Jill and I started a few weeks back, I’d like to take a look at a subject that encapsulates so much of what is wrong with our politics today.

What is corruption? According to Merriam Webster, corruption is dishonest or illegal behavior by powerful people, such as government officials or police officers; an inducement to wrong by improper or unlawful means (such as bribery).

Sound familiar? The fate of our politics in 2020 has never been more perilous. We’re now in the midst of perhaps the most corrupt administration in history, whose leader was impeached by the Democratically controlled House of Representatives, but acquitted by the Republican-controlled Senate.

It seems every time you turn around, someone in power is doing something he or she shouldn’t. When folks obtain a level of power in our society, especially in the Washington D.C. political world, the lure to keep…

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Discord & Dissension – Part IV (c) – Voting & Voters

In Friday’s post, we looked at the reasons people give for not voting, and in Saturday’s post, we looked at the demographics … who isn’t voting, and why.  When we put those two together, we see why some people aren’t voting, for the system is designed to make it difficult for them.  In this, the final post of the week on voters not voting, we will look at some ways to effect change.  There are actually two distinct groups of non-voters:  those who are at least partly disenfranchised, for whom the system has made voting a difficult task, and those who are either too lazy or apathetic to stir themselves to vote.  The solutions are different for each of these groups, so we need to look at them separately.  But first, a disclaimer.  There is no panacea, no simple, single solution that will all of a sudden solve the problem of nearly half the eligible voters failing to vote.  We must find a multitude of small steps that all contribute toward bringing us closer to the goal.

Registration

The first step in the process of voting is to register.  At present, the onus for registering lies solely with the voter. Every state’s registration rules are a bit different.  In 37 states, one can register online, but in the other 13, registration must be done in person.  For many, this means taking time off work, and possibly difficulties finding transportation.  Online registration is a great idea, but it needs to be made well-known to all, for many are not aware that it is possible, or how to begin the process.There are ways to remind people:  workplaces and churches could place posters reminding people to register and listing places, such as DMV as well as the website.  Schools could send home flyers reminding parents to register.  And to be really proactive, districts could mail registration forms to all homes in the district.  Another, even better idea is automatic registration, such as is used in countries like Canada and Germany where voter turnout rates are in the 90 percentile range.  According to the Brennan Center for Justice, “Eleven states and the District of Columbia have already approved automatic voter registration, and 19 states have introduced automatic registration proposals in 2018. In addition, the New Jersey Legislature passed automatic voter registration on April 12th, and the bill is awaiting Governor Phil Murphy’s signature.”

Registration may well be half the battle and some combination of the above ideas would likely have a significant impact on voter turnout.

The Disenfranchised

This group consists of people who are typically lower income or minorities, for whom just getting through the day and feeding their family is hard.  State regulations have made the process of voting harder for these people by closing polling stations in their neighborhoods, shortening the hours of polling stations, and requiring a driver’s license or other state-issued identification that they may not have.  The solution is simple, right?  But with the repeal of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, there is no longer a requirement for federal oversight, and the states are largely free to do whatever they want, within certain boundaries.  Section 5 needs desperately to be reinstated, but that will not likely happen soon, if ever.  Meanwhile?

With a republican majority in Congress, it is unlikely that legislation to help make voting easier for the disenfranchised would fly, for those it would benefit are more likely to vote democrat.  One partial solution is what happened in Pennsylvania recently, when the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the state’s district map must be re-drawn in order to be more fair.  The ruling was unsuccessfully challenged by republican lawmakers, and the map has been redrawn.  While gerrymandered maps are not technically a barrier to voting, in the sense that they may cause polling stations to be farther from a person’s home or workplace and thus require greater travel time, the reality is that they can be a barrier.  I would like to see the Supreme Courts in every state follow the lead of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

One thing that many of us can do is actually help people get to their polling places.  There are many volunteers who spend the entire election day driving elderly people and others without transportation to and from the polling stations.  A reader of this blog left me this comment when I first published this post in April 2018:

“I have a listing of homeowners and rental units in the town in which I live..and together with other “ladies” from the Resist Movement in OK, go door to door and hand out voter registration papers..we will offer to assist in filling them out, and we then offer a ride to the polling places on voting days. You’d be amazed how many do not vote because they thought they “weren’t allowed to vote” after having misdemeanor convictions!”

I just wanted to hug this lady!!!  She is doing something to make the world a better place, and to her, my thumbs are all up!

Other measures that have proven helpful in getting voters to the polls include:

  • Early voting, which allows any qualified voter to cast a ballot during a specified period prior to the actual election day.
  • Absentee voting, whereby voters may request an absentee ballot and return it either by mail or in person, with or without an excuse. Presently, 27 states and the District of Columbia allow absentee voting without needing an excuse, 20 others require an excuse.
  • All-mail voting, where a ballot is automatically mailed to every eligible voter (no request or application is necessary). Three states, Oregon, Washington and Colorado currently use all-mail voting.  Funny story about this … I periodically make comments to my girls about projects I am working on, usually unsolicited and out of the blue.  As I was working on this one, I asked the girls if they were aware that 3 states actually had all-mail voting.  Daughter Chris’ jaw dropped to the ground, thinking I meant “all-male” voting!

early voting map

Voter Apathy

Those who are simply either too lazy, don’t care, don’t like the candidates, or believe that it is a lost cause, may be the most challenging to get to the polls.  To do so will require a plethora of different things, starting with voter education, and involving large amounts of motivating and inspiring techniques.  Unfortunately, these constitute the largest group, some 65% of all the non-voters.  This translates into roughly 58.2 million people!

While I personally believed … still believe … that Hillary Clinton would have been a good president, I admit that she came with some baggage, and was not a particularly ‘lovable’ candidate, did not run an inspired campaign.  Thus, in 2016, it is understandable that many did not like either candidate.  But how to convince these people that it is better to vote for the lesser of two evils than to simply shrug their shoulders and stay at home watching television?

I think the starting point must be in education.  According to Donald Green, a political scientist at Columbia University in New York City, it is up to parents and teachers to stress just how important it is.  Common sense, yes?

I don’t know the answers, but somehow we must find ways to convince these 58.2 million people that their vote counts, that they make a difference, but not sitting home on their patooties.  Talk to friends who say they don’t care.  Join a volunteer group that is going door-to-door talking to people.  Sport a t-shirt with your favourite candidate (I still wear my Obama t-shirt!!!), put a bumper sticker on your car.  Help people to better understand the issues, the candidates.

A recent quote I saw in the New York Times seems apropos:

To many African-American voters in Alabama, Cecil said, “Donald Trump is the living embodiment of the idea that voting doesn’t matter.” Trump is profoundly unfit to be a president — a congenital liar and racist who lost the popular vote by 2.9 million votes. And yet president he is.

This is, I think, one of the biggest hurdles, and while I disagree with the thought process, I understand it.

Conclusion

Given our current system, we will not likely achieve 90% turnout, but I think we can damn well do better than 56%, especially given that those who voted in 2016 were a majority of wealthy, white people, leaving behind a large portion of the citizens, equally important citizens, of this nation.  Because of the results, we have all but lost our voice in our government.  Sure, you can write and call your members of Congress, but I haven’t had a personalized response yet, and I’m never even sure if they hear, but I’m sure they don’t care.  Until November 3rd, and then they will care.  We must send a message, but in order to do so, we all need to speak.  Let’s help make sure more people vote this year.  Let’s all do a few things within our own circle of friends, family & neighbors:

  • Make sure they are registered. If they aren’t offer to help with filling out forms, taking them to register if they cannot do so online.
  • Help them understand the issues and what each candidate stands for.
  • Keep talking about how very important it is that everyone get out and vote, without necessarily pushing a specific candidate.
  • Volunteer to drive people to the polling stations on November 3rd.

It is up to We The People, for we cannot rely on the government to work toward increasing voter turnout.  We need some new blood … let’s make it happen, folks!

This concludes this week’s segment in three parts of Discord & Dissension.  Jeff has been on vacation the last two weeks, but he is back home now and working diligently on Part V of our project that will be published on Friday … so stay tuned!  Your comments and suggestions are always welcome!

Discord & Dissension – Part IV (b) – Voting & Voters

Only 67% of all eligible voters are even registered to vote.  That is only two out of every three adults.  In yesterday’s post, we looked at the reasons people gave for not voting, some of which were ludicrous, such as “forgot”, “weather”, and “too busy”.  But there are some legitimate reasons that people do not vote.  To understand these, I think it is important to look at some of the demographics of the non-voters.

Race

Among white voters, 73.5% of eligible voters did actually vote in 2016.  But minorities were much less likely to vote, with only 69.7% of African-Americans, 59.4% of Latinos, and the lowest group being Asians at 55.3%.

Age

Not surprisingly, the percentage of eligible voters who vote increases with age:

Age 18 to 24       58.5%

Age 25 to 34       66.4%

Age 35 to 44       69.9%

Age 45 to 54       73.5%

Age 55 to 64       76.6%

Age 65 to 74       78.1%

Age 75 or older 76.6%

But, after the February 2018 Parkland, Florida school shooting,  the percentage of young voters voting took a significant leap in the 2018 mid-term elections.

Education

There is absolutely nothing surprising in this set of statistics:

Less than high school graduate  50.5%

High school graduate      64.1%

Some college     75.3%

Bachelor’s degree            81.2%

Advanced degree            85.8%

Income

Again, no real surprises here:

Less than $20,000           63.7%

$20,000 to $29,999          67.1%

$30,000 to $39,999          71.1%

$40,000 to $49,999          72.6%

$50,000 to $74,999          78.2%

$75,000 to $99,999          81.9%

$100,000 and over          79.6%

While this one isn’t surprising, it is disturbing, for the very people who most need fairness from our government are the least likely to vote to make a difference.

Taken together, when we look at the demographics, look at who is and who isn’t voting, is it any wonder that we currently have a government that is “Of the wealthy white people, By the wealthy white people, and For the wealthy white people”?  They are the ones who vote!

All of the above statistics are understandable when put into context.  There are a number of things that have led to the disenfranchisement of lower income and minority voters.  Consider gerrymandering, redistricting states so that most minorities are grouped into as few as districts as possible so as to be given a much weaker voice than their white counterparts.  I have shared this graphic before, but it is still the clearest, most understandable explanation of how gerrymandering can change the outcome of an election:And then there are the various efforts by many states to make it more difficult for lower income and minorities to vote, such as shortening the hours that polls are open, and closing polling places in poorer or predominantly minority areas. Twenty states do not allow a person convicted of a felony to vote while serving a sentence or while on probation.  Two states, Florida and Virginia, permanently disallow convicted felons voting privileges.

In some cases, voter I.D. may be difficult to obtain.  Consider these cases:

A 96-year-old woman in Tennessee was denied a voter-ID card despite presenting four forms of identification, including her birth certificate. A World War II veteran was turned away in Ohio because his Department of Veterans Affairs photo ID didn’t include his address. Andrea Anthony, a 37-year-old black woman from Wisconsin who had voted in every major election since she was 18, couldn’t vote in 2016 because she had lost her driver’s license a few days before. – New York Times, 10 March 2018

In 1965, Congress passed, and President Lyndon Johnson signed into law, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, perhaps the single most important piece of legislation to come from the Civil Rights movement.  It eliminated certain barriers to voting, such as literacy testing and other requirements that denied many blacks the right to vote.  Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act precluded certain states and districts that had a history of disenfranchising blacks, from implementing any change affecting voting without receiving pre-approval from the U.S. Attorney General or the U.S. District Court for D.C.  But in 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Section 5 by a 5-to-4 vote, freeing nine states, mostly in the South, to change their election laws without advance federal approval.  Chief Justice John Roberts said, essentially, that times had changed and the Court believed racial discrimination was no longer the problem it was in the 1960s.  Almost immediately on the heels of this ruling, Texas announced new voter identification laws and redistricting maps.  Other states in the South followed suit.

Referring back to yesterday’s post, we looked at some of the reasons people gave for not voting.  When we look at the 6% who said they did not vote due to ‘registration problems’, or the 2.7% who claimed ‘inconvenient polling place’, or the 2.6% who said they had ‘transportation problems’, perhaps we can understand those reasons.  Consider the single mom who is not allowed to take time off work, so she goes to vote after work. The polling station in her neighborhood closed last year, so she now has to take a bus to her new polling place 45 minutes away from where she works.  Meanwhile, her children are home alone with nobody to cook their supper, or supervise them.  What would you do?

It is obvious that there are some people who do not vote with good reason.  We need to find solutions to the barriers for minorities and others who are truly disenfranchised.  We also need to find ways to inspire and motivate those who make excuses not to vote, to convince them that their vote is crucial.  And we need to make voting more accessible to all.  In Part III, we will take a look at some things that may contribute to increasing the numbers of people who vote.  There is no single panacea, but I believe there are a number of things that can be done at the federal and state levels, as well as by people like me and you, people who care about our country.  Stay tuned …

VOTE!!! – Part II — A Guest Post By Roger Jacob

This is Part II of a guest post on voting in the 2020 election, by our friend, Roger Jacob … Roger has a clear view from across the big pond of what is happening in the U.S. today, and has some words of wisdom, from a historical context, that we all need to hear.  Many thanks, Roger, for your wise words, and for taking the time out of your own writing schedule to write this post for us.

USA Not Voting Is No Longer A Luxury You Can Indulge

Part II

The Unhappy but Unavoidable Basics

“Democracy is a very bad form of government. But I ask you never to forget: All the others are so much worse.”

This stirring and wise little statement is from the opening credits of each episode of the brief CBS drama 1963-1964 Slattery’s People. The outline being the local politics and a state legislator James Slattery.

Churchill’s earlier version was, one of his less erudite and not so stirring “Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time”, which it is argued was not one of his own and probably explains why it lacks a Churchillian ‘something’

Thus when you objectively compare the other forms of government (or antics masquerading as government) the ask yourself this ‘Would I like to live there for the rest of my life?’. For make no mistake, in this current era of Human history of large aggressive states and huge corporations central government of a nation by a small group of people is the only alternative, unless you can find a very small piece of isolated land that no one wants and survive on it…while hoping no one finds valuable resources thereupon. You are dealing with a 7.7 billion sized very flawed but inventive species here, hiding out and surviving can be difficult.

On Democracy and more Unavoidables

Having to accept the fact that someone is going to run the place wherever you live and thus have an impact on your life, having a say in who gets there is an attractive option. As you are going to vote in people and not saintly beings there will be mistakes, flaws, compromise, disappointments and all the other baggage humans drag around with them. This is also unavoidable. This is the Current Reality. If you are looking for perfection in government. Sorry that era has not arrived yet…hopefully it will, if we survive that long.

Another facet of democracy is that folk who have very strong opinions will make sure they can get out there and vote. Now you may not care for the folk with the Strong Opinions, but if you don’t vote then they will have a disproportionate say in your life. Again you don’t get to avoid this. Yes you can protest, yes you can organise campaigns and you might win a few, but ‘they’ the elected of the ‘Strong Opinions’ will still be there and the only chance you will get to remove them will be at the next election.

This is how the flawed process of Democracy works. Participation is the only stable, civic way you can ensure it remains Stable and Civic.

Narrowing in. The USA in 2020

I address this portion to the citizens of voting age in the USA.

You will not need me to list, report or otherwise enumerate the controversial decisions, statements and persons who have appeared upon the political stage since the election of 2016. You have them burned into your memory and possibly your hearts. You know full well that the temperature of the political atmosphere has risen and thus increased the level of toxicity. You know, as I suggested before Consensus is a very endangered species, in some regions it is extinct.

Now it may be, it is possible that many of the folk associated with the current administration are not racists, homophobic, anti-minority, narrow-minded reactionaries or religious zealots. It maybe. However by the actions and statements coming out of the administration these views have been given an air of respectability, they can be howled out under the guise of the much-abused term ‘Free Speech’. There are people striding about the public domain who back in the 1960s & 1970s would have labelled ‘wackos’ and generally laughed at. Now they have far too many followers.

In this situation I will ask those of you who do not vote this very hard question. Are you content with that situation? Are you not bothered about what is happening along the US Mexican border? Are you at ease with the mass shooting? Are you at ease with the Hate-Crime and unprovoked attacks on minority peoples? Are you? Now be careful with your reply as you might feel inclined to reply to me, because whatever you write however you argue, I will be replying too … with those questions. For there is no option if you choose to stay in the USA. Are you content with this administration and its followers? Are you?  Are you willing to stand by and do naught but simply write an impassioned piece in Social Media in the belief that somehow that will change things? For ‘they’ write impassioned pieces too.

We dial back to the previous post. And that that 60,000,000+ folk voted from this administration and rest assured they will vote again, and again, and again. This 25%-30% of the numbers. But they are not the majority…they were not the majority in 2016 … thanks to a narrow margin and a freak of your system they ‘won’. So do they truly represent anyone other than themselves. Are you content with these people telling you how the nation is going to be run. Are you?

For the non-voter by principal here is your paradox which in this case has to be answered. You might well have very strong views on government, which is why you do not vote. I will again  come back to the earlier point. Someone is going to run the nation. Are you content with this administration running it, or would you rather chance another, and yes risk those disappointment? Some might say ‘better the devil you know’… Let me say from a study of American political history ‘Well folks, if you are content with a devil …’

This I will hammer home again, and again. Are you content? Are you willing to let things go on the way they are? Do you truly think that an alternative will be The Same? Do you? Are you willing to risk the lives and well-being of minorities to satisfy your own views? Are you content for them to lay there upon some allegorical petri dish while you muse over your own political philosophies hoping to gain some ephemeral moral high-ground. Sorry, but that is not the real world you are living in. Oh yes you can talk about change and I would not challenge that but in this climate you do not get the chance to make that change because it comes by steady, slow evolution and right now we are looking at a possible political extinct event.

Polemic? Yes of course. Because currently American politics is a place of polemics from both sides and in that toxic environment your way does not have a hope. Civil War does. But not yours. Not at this time. The atmosphere is too toxic.

Your only option to change is to get out there and vote.

Defeatism

This is something of fall-back cop-out which comes in many forms. Let us leave the lazy ‘What’s the point’ excuse, I’ve put up enough arguments against that in the above words. NO need to repeat. There are others worries. These needed to be address by activism

Gerrymandering- Yes, they will do that. You need a rather dull and stodgy UK style Boundaries Commission to guard against that and even then there is huffing and puffing. However you are in pre-war situation here and propaganda  plays a part. Imagine the result when Trump’s dream gerrymandering has worked. For Trump 65,000,000. Against Trump 90,000,000. Imagine what the media and world media would make of that. It would be quite comic, and the streets would be clogged with protestors. And where is Trump’s mandate? Also that would have many a congress or senate member worrying about the next election.

Not Eligible – This is an old trick which was used in the South to keep ‘those people’ out of the booths when the local politicians were queasy about ‘good ol’ boys’ with clubs. This takes finesse as what would be required would be a strongly created website were folk denied the vote could register their names and the reason. Imagine millions of  names turning up? Of course that does need, as I said a very good site.

The Russians – Yeah. That’s another old one from the European book of tricks. Influence the nation, or make you think they are influencing the nation and thus erode the feeling a vote will count. Get out there and vote and make a noise about it. As with the other two problems it is all about raising the opposition profile.

Summary

Your nation is on tracks for an extremist disaster. Trump is only a small part of it. The main issue is the polarisation. The only way that can be defeated is by The Active Moderate, who demands their voice be heard. The one who will not be silent, and the only way they will listen by is the counting of the votes and the voice of those who voted.

Anything else is quite frankly fluff the current administration will blow away with its own propaganda.

The administration’s supporters will vote you can be sure of that. By not voting you are simply supporting them and stoking the fires.

Are you content with that?

Are you comfortable with the persecution of minorities?

Are you at ease with the erosion of the environment?

Are you glad the rich are getting richer?

If you don’t vote out of choice, then you must be.

Stands to reason.

Note to readers:  I will be re-running these two posts, as well as others, in the days leading up to election day.  Meanwhile, feel free to use these to help try to convince people you may know who claim it is too much bother to vote, or have other excuses. 

Sue … Sue, Sue, Sue …

This nation should change its name to the United States of Lawsuits!  Or, perhaps that should be the Divided States of Lawsuits. Now, mind you, it’s always been this way, frivolous lawsuits are nothing new.  But today it is worse than ever, when the so-called “leader” of the nation is best known for having been either a plaintiff or defendant in more than 6,000 lawsuits over the course of his 72 years.

Trump’s first lawsuit occurred when he was in his twenties.  He sued the Department of Justice for $100 million in retaliation after he was found in violation of the Fair Housing Act for racial discrimination in 39 apartment buildings.  The case was thrown out by a federal judge, but for Trump, it was to set a precedent.

And now, he is suing the State of California.  Now, he calls himself the president of the United States, so would someone please ‘splain to me how he can sue one of the 50 states he claims are under his own dominion?  In fact, I found no less than 42 lawsuits with his name as either the sue-er or the sue-ee since he became president, most involving his presidency, others involving his businesses.  Although, according to Paul Nolette, a political science professor at Marquette University, the number is much higher.  Take for example …

Doe et al. v. Trump Corp. et al.  This case was filed in the Southern District of New York just last October.  The defendants claim that Trump, his three eldest children, and his company used the Trump name to entice vulnerable people to invest in sham business opportunities.

So anyway, lawsuits are no stranger to Trump, and in fact it’s probably the thing he is best known for … along with being a liar and a sexual predator.  But the suit against California … this one is, in my opinion, blatant obstruction of justice and an attempt to manipulate both states’ rights and the 2020 election.  Here’s the Cliff Notes version …

Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law a bill requiring all presidential candidates to submit five years of income tax filings by late November in order to appear on the presidential primary ballot in March next year.  This does not affect the general election in November, but only the primaries.  Since there is no credible candidate thus far running against Trump in California, or anywhere else for that matter, it has no practical effect on Trump.  It does, however, affect his ego, and that is largely what is driving Trump’s lawsuit against California.

For the past 40 years, candidates have all released at least some of their tax returns.  Trump has released none, and in fact has blocked every attempt of the House committees looking into his finances from obtaining his tax records.  A person with nothing to hide does not go to such measures to … well, hide things.  The people of this nation have every right to see his tax returns.  The greater the lengths he goes to in his attempt to keep his financial records tucked into a dark corner, the more We the People are convinced there is something very sinister going on.

The lawsuit?  Well, first of all, guess who’s paying for it?  Yepper … you and I … those of us who pay taxes which, by the way, does not include large corporations or Trump’s wealthy donors … it is those of us who get out of bed at 5:00 a.m. every morning and go to a job that we either hate or tolerate … so we can pay Trump’s lawyers for such perfidy as suing the State of California to stroke Trump’s ego.  Chew on that one as you trudge along to another day at the ol’ salt mines!

But, while we’re on the subject of lawsuits … there is yet another lawsuit on which the Supreme Court recently ruled that is infuriating, and although it doesn’t directly involve Trump, it is in fact all about Trump and the GOP …

In the case of Rucho v Common Cause, the Supreme Court ruled that while partisan gerrymandering may be “incompatible with democratic principles”, the federal courts cannot review such allegations, as they present nonjusticiable political questions outside the remit of these courts.

In a nutshell, two state legislators from North Carolina, Senator Robert Rucho and Representative David Lewis decided to re-district, or gerrymander, the state to the advantage of the republican party.  According to Lewis …

“I propose that we draw the maps to give a partisan advantage to 10 Republicans and three Democrats, because I do not believe it’s possible to draw a map with 11 Republicans and two Democrats.”

This is election-rigging at its worst, and Common Cause, the North Carolina Democratic Party, the League of Women Voters, as well as several others, brought suit.  Long story short, at the end of the day, the Supreme Court ruled that “partisan gerrymandering claims present political questions beyond the reach of the federal courts”.  Well, excuuuuuse me, but if the issue is “beyond the reach of the federal courts”, then just whose reach is it within???

It seems to me that common sense has been replaced with lawsuits … people cannot seem to be trusted to “do the right thing”, and so, if in doubt hire a good lawyer and sue … somebody … for something.  That is certainly Trump’s m.o., and nowadays we the taxpayer are footing the bill for his lawyer-addiction.

And now, please excuse me … I must go call my lawyer and find out if I can sue Trump for my sleepless nights, heartburn, and the burn on my hand!  Fun, fun, fun!