Here, There, And Other Places — Voting

Here’s how it works in New Zealand per our NZ friend Barry …

* ease of voter registration. The law requires that everyone over the age 18 register on the electoral roll. However if you haven’t registered, you can do so when you go to vote. It only takes a few minutes.

* no queueing. Polling places are set up everywhere including churches, mosques, schools, community centres, shopping malls etc. I’ve voted every three years in every nation and local election since 1972 in four different electorates (voting districts) and I’ve never had to wait for more than five minutes, and those occasions were at peak times. .

* polling day is always on a Saturday as fewer people work on that day. Polling booths are open from 7am to 7pm on polling day and most are open every day in the two weeks prior to polling day

* you can vote outside of the electorate you’re registered in

* voter ID is not required, but bringing in the ID that is mailed out to every registered voter at the commencement of each election cycle will cut about a minute off the voting process.

* it’s a simple process to register for postal voting and telephone voting and the vote(s) can be cast any time in the month prior to polling day. It’s also possible to nominate someone to vote on your behalf if your disability is such that you can not vote in person

Voter fraud is extremely rare and there never has been a coordinated attempt of voter fraud. Ease of voting takes priority over everything else as that is seen as absolutely vital for democracy.

Additionally gerrymandering does not occur as electoral boundaries are determined by an independent non political commission consisting of a high Court judge, the head of the Statistics Department, a number of other civil servants whose roles I don’t recall at this moment, and one person representing the governing political parties and one person representing the opposition parties.

Restrictions around voting that’s seen in some American states is unfathomable to us. The only restriction here is that it is an offense to display political party advertising of any type (including insignia, badges etc) on polling day.


And here’s how it works in Australia, per our Australian friend Andrea …

Every eligible person MUST vote. Because of that necessity, voting has been made as easy as possible. We always vote on a Saturday, so most people /can/ vote. We have voting booths in almost every school hall or community centre Australia wide, so there’s always a voting place near at hand. We also have postal ballots.

And we have consequences for not voting…but…the punishment for not voting is a $50 slap on the wrist!

We have no voter fraud as far as I know, and while Australians might grumble at having to make time to vote, we all DOT IT.

Are all Australians fully aware of the policies and issues of the day? Nope. Does majority rule always get it right? Nope. But at least there /is/ majority rule. Our country isn’t driven by extreme factions of either the left or the right because compulsory voting /moderates/ those extremes.

Is the US even aware of how far it’s drifting from the principles of democracy?????


And here’s how it works in the United States …

Well, never mind, for it varies so greatly from state-to-state and further varies depending on a) level of wealth, b) colour of skin, c) education level, d) age, e) length of toenails (okay, maybe I’m being a bit facetious with that last one).  But nowhere … NOWHERE in the United States is it as painless to cast a vote as it is in either New Zealand or Australia.  And it is getting more and more painful, time-consuming and difficult every year, at least in some states.  Voting in the U.S. is highly discriminatory in this, the year 2022, the 235th year since the U.S. Constitution was ratified.  This level of difficulty could explain the low voter turnout … often barely over 50% and often less than 50% in mid-term election years.

You’ll notice the spike in 2020 when, due to the pandemic, most states made postal voting available to more people.  This year, many of those concessions have been reversed, and most every state in the nation has imposed more restrictive measures including enhanced voter ID requirements, travel restrictions, fewer polling places (resulting in longer wait times), fewer drop boxes, purging voter registration lists, and much more.  A disabled, elderly person or a college student in some states has almost no chance of being able to make their voice heard.

Thanks to Barry and Andrea for showing us how a truly democratic voting system works.  We can hope that someday the people of this nation will put the good of the country ahead of their partisanship and demand that we make it easier rather than harder. Don’t hold your breath, though.

The Battle For The Soul Of The Nation

I often find Robert Reich to be one of the most intelligent voices out there, and his offering yesterday was no exception …


The most important battle of our lifetimes

There can be no middle ground in the fight between democracy and authoritarian fascism

By Robert Reich

01 September 2022

One week after a team of F.B.I. agents descended on his private club and residence in Florida, Trump warned that things could get out of hand if the Justice Department kept the heat on him. “People are so angry at what is taking place,” Trump told Fox News, predicting that if the “temperature” isn’t brought down, “terrible things are going to happen.”

But Trump and his allies are doing all they can to increase the temperature. Last Sunday, one of Trump’s closest allies, Senator Lindsey Graham, warned of “riots in the streets” if Trump is prosecuted.

On Tuesday, Trump spent much of the morning reposting messages from known purveyors of the QAnon conspiracy theory and from 4chan, an anonymous message platform where threats of violence often bloom. Some of Trump’s reposts were direct provocations, such as a photograph of President Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and Speaker Nancy Pelosi with their faces obscured by the words, “Your enemy is not in Russia.”

Online threats are escalating against public servants. Bruce E. Reinhart, the federal magistrate judge who approved the warrant to search Mar-a-Lago, has been targeted with messages threatening him and his family.

How to respond to this lawlessness? With bold and unwavering law enforcement.

If Trump has broken the law – by attempting a coup, by instigating an assault on the U.S. Capitol, by making off with troves of top-secret documents — he must be prosecuted, and if found guilty he must be imprisoned.

Yes, such prosecutions might increase tensions and divisions in the short term. They might provoke additional violence.

But a failure to uphold the laws of the United States would be far more damaging in the longer term. It would undermine our system of government and the credibility of that system — more directly and irreparably than Trump has done.

Not holding a former president accountable for gross acts of criminality will invite ever more criminality from future presidents and lawmakers.

It is also important for all those in public life who believe in democracy to call out what the Republican Party is doing and what it has become: not just its embrace of Trump’s Big Lie but its moves toward voter suppression, takeovers of the machinery of elections, ending of reproductive rights, book bans, restrictions on what can be taught in classrooms, racism, and assaults on LGBTQ people.

Last week, Biden condemned “ultra-MAGA Republicans” for a philosophy he described as “semi-fascism.” Today he will deliver a rare prime-time speech outside the old Independence Hall where the Framers of the Constitution met 235 years ago to establish the basic rules of our democratic form of government. The speech will focus on what the White House describes as the “battle for the soul of the nation” – the fight to protect that democracy.

President Biden’s earlier conciliatory tone and talk of uniting Americans and “healing” the nation from the ravages of Trump has obviously not worked on most of the Republican Party. With the notable and noble exceptions of Liz Cheney and a few other courageous Republicans — most of whom have been or are being purged from the GOP — the Republican Party is rapidly morphing into an anti-democracy movement. With each passing week, it becomes more rabid in its opposition to the rule of law. Republican lawmakers who took an oath of allegiance to the Constitution are repudiating it in word and deed. Republican candidates are lying about the 2020 election and whipping up our fellow countrymen into angry mobs. And as Republican lawmakers and candidates exchange their political integrity for power, Fox News and other rightwing outlets continue to exchange their journalistic integrity for money.

The essential political choice in America, therefore, is no longer Republican or Democrat, right or left, conservative or liberal. It is democracy or authoritarian fascism. There can be no compromise between these two — no halfway point, no “moderate middle,” no “balance.” To come down squarely on the side of democracy is not to be “partisan.” It is to be patriotic.

As Adam Wilkins suggested on this page yesterday, while today’s Republican party does not have its own paramilitary, such as the Nazi’s Brownshirts, the GOP is effectively outsourcing these activities to violent fringe groups such as the “Proud Boys,” “Oathkeepers,” and others who descended on the Capitol on January 6, 2021, and who continue to threaten violence.

Yet Democrats cannot and must not take on this battle alone. They must seek common ground with Independents and whatever reasonable Republicans remain. As Eric T noted on this page, we must continue to appeal to truth, facts, logic, and common sense. We must be unwavering in our commitment to the Constitution and the rule of law. We must be clear and courageous in exposing the authoritarian fascist direction the Republican Party has now chosen, and the dangers this poses to America and the world.

It is also important for Democrats to recognize — and to take bold action against — the threat to democracy posed by big money from large corporations and the super-wealthy: record amounts of campaign funding inundating and distorting our politics, serving the moneyed interests rather than the common good.

Indeed, the two threats – one, from an increasingly authoritarian-fascist Republican Party; the second, from ever-larger amounts of corporate and billionaire money in our campaigns and elections – are two sides of the same coin. Americans who know the system is rigged against them and in favor of the moneyed interests, are more likely to give up on democracy and embrace an authoritarian fascist demagogue who pretends to be on “their side.”

The battle to preserve and protect American democracy is the most important battle of our lifetimes. If we win, there is nothing we cannot achieve. If we lose, there is nothing we can achieve.