If we don’t vote, we’ll get HIM again

I know thirteen months seems like a long time, but … November 3rd 2020, election day in the U.S., will be here before you know it. It is not too soon to start thinking about some things. Oh sure, most who are reading this know that they will vote for the democratic nominee, no matter who it is. But what about those who won’t likely vote? Just this morning I saw a tweet that said if Biden is the nominee, she won’t vote. What, if anything, can we do to motivate and encourage everyone to vote? Our friend Jeff over at On the Fence Voters has written a thoughtful and thought-provoking post about this and I encourage you to read it, think about it. We’ll chat more soon, for I have some ideas. Thank you, Jeff!

On The Fence Voters

I can’t remember a time where the news cycle is so fluid that you can’t even keep up with it. The media is undoubtedly earning their stripes in the era of Trump. When one scandal erupts over here, another one erupts over there. I go on Twitter for 10 minutes, and multiple stories are breaking all at once.

Is this what we signed up for? Sadly, yes, it is. According to Pew Research, Americans are one of the least active voting populations among developed countries, ranking 26 out of 32 countries in voter turnout. Belgium, for example, saw over 87 percent of voters turn out it 2014. Compare that to the approximately 56 percent who turned out in the 2016 American election, and it’s tough not to conclude that there’s a sizable portion of our population who are not engaged in our democracy.

And in 2016, that disengagement hurt…

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

A week or so ago, our friend Roger and I were chatting about how crucial next year’s election will be in the U.S., how it is likely to be the single most important election in the history of the nation, and how critical it is that every eligible person uses the power of his vote on 03 November 2020.  Roger is a gifted writer with a strong sense of history, and when he offered to write a guest post on this subject, I jumped at the offer!  Roger lives in Wales (UK) and I find that often, those outside the U.S. see our situation with more clarity than we who live in this muck every day do. What follows is the first of a two-part guest post titled:

USA Not Voting Is No Longer A Luxury You Can Indulge

Part I-

Motivations, Histories, Circumstances

Preface, Emotions and History

Firstly, I would not be writing this were I not for many years pro-American. I do not subscribe to the tired old ‘USA is the root of all evils’ jag. If you are going to be critical of the USA then you had better include sentences on Russia and China in your comments, they do not get a free-ride. The Three Big Powers. Big Powers are ugly in their dealings with the world. A brief read of the histories of Empires or Very Large Nations anywhere anywhen should convince you of that.

That said back to my relationship with the USA. The music, the humour, the variety, the enthusiasm, the can-do. I thought them wonderful, exhilarating. Dare I use the shallow phrase ‘I love(d) The USA!’. I still value its freedom of art, this vast sprawling inventive nation not shackled by clichés of faux-rebellion and cliques of the self-aggrandised and their followers smaller nations can suffer with.

This opening paragraph is essential to my argument. Because I care about the USA and I see its potential about to be ruined. Torn apart by the negative parts of the Human, those which History warns us have always been there and despite the myriad of examples still lurk, with dread patience. You, The USA is at one of the turning points many nations have encountered. You can journey on. Or you can implode. 2020’s Presidential election beckons.

2016 Election

Being a retired Civil Servant I promptly started checking stats and quite frankly became very side-lined. I will spare my fascination with numbers and give you some simple facts: Clinton = 65,853,514 Trump = 62,984,828. Whereas Trump is legally and constitutionally the USA president more people voted for Clinton. 245,500,000 Americans are 18 & over. Therefore, Trump was voted in by 25.6 % of the adult population. This in itself is not unusual, other than the fact that there is a minority president. Combined these show hardly a stunning mandate.  

Ramifications

Because of the divisive nature of Trump there is at best a stubborn refusal for one side to see the other’s argument against or for him. At worse there is a loud, vociferous and toxic climate in American politics in which consensus has long since withered and there is naught but conflict. Trump has done nothing to assuage the opposition, in fact he has goaded them and relied upon his own loyal base to stoke up his confidence. Thus, widening the gap. Into such an atmosphere naturally the rabble rousers and extremists will turn up and prosper by feeding the supporters with a diet of anger, mockery of the foe and most of all hate (and rake in the bucks folks…notice how Bannon does not live in a shack or trailer park). This is always the situation prior to a civil or civic strife. A House Divided. You will see this phrase again.

Trump

People talk of Trump as if he was so great political operator with an inane sense of genius. This is not so. As businessmen before him he thought he could run the country like he runs his businesses and by woeful chance he appeared at a time when: (1) a portion of the population were reeling from having one of ‘those’ people in the Whitehouse for two terms (2) The culture wars were entering their fourth decade and getting hotter (3) The antics of ‘The Hill’ were getting on people’s nerves. Thus, Trump is but the manifestations of millions of people’s fears, angers (and in some cases) blind prejudices. As far as they are concerned he is their man and not (as he believes) the other way around. Thus, this vocal and furious approximately 25% now hold sway in the Nation. A multi-cultured, five time zone, 300,000,000 + population, politically polarised with easy access to firearms Nation. A more astute generation of politicians would have picked up on this and would be doing something to damp down the fires. Not Trump, bloated with the adulation of his creators he sees only them and their needs. Woefully ignorant of the forces which are at work. A House Divided. History beckons.

Warning

The entrenchments of both sides indicate those who are currently involved within the political processes, be they politicians, aides, activists or voters have in most cases already made up their minds. The nation has in round terms 123,000,000 voters willing to make their mark, to repeat there is a potential in round terms of of 245,000,000. The questions to ask at this stage are is approximately one-half of the population content to let (1) Their future be fought over by another divided half. (2) Thus, content to be told how Life is going to be by a subsequent victorious quarter. If you didn’t vote last time because ‘why bother’ or ‘my principals’ were your fall back reasons, ask yourself:

Are you really content with a quarter of the population dictating to you?

Do you really think in this toxic situation you or folk close and dear to you will not be affected some day, some how, some when?

In the next part we will discuss this in more detail.

Thank you so much, Roger!  😊  Stay tuned for Part II …

Bernie Sanders: The 7 Issues Guide

Today I bring you the 11th installment of TokyoSand’s excellent series, The 7 Issues Guide, helping us get to know a bit about the platforms of the democratic candidates running for the office of president next year. Bernie Sanders is on deck today. Bernie has been one of two Senators from Vermont since 2007, and was a candidate for the democratic nomination in 2016. I like Bernie, he has some good ideas and his focus is on humanitarian issues. Thank you, TokyoSand, and your diligent volunteers, for helping us get to know Mr. Sanders!

Political⚡Charge

There is a big field of candidates running for the Democratic nomination for President in 2020. The candidates each bring their own unique strengths to the table in a bid to take our country in a very different direction than the one we’re on today.

But as we well know from 2016, the media (and especially social media) gets fixated on non-substantial issues that take up all the oxygen. Plus, they don’t give the candidates the same treatment or the same amount of airtime.

In order to help voters get to know the candidates, I’ve gathered quotes and information about what the candidates have said or done in regards to the 7 issues that midterm voters identified as the most important. I hope that these guides serve as a helpful starting point for you as you look into which candidates (or how many candidates!) you are interested in supporting…

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Jay Inslee: The 7 Issues Guide

Today I bring you the 8th installment of TokyoSand’s excellent series, The 7 Issues Guide, helping us get to know a bit about the platforms of the democratic candidates running for the office of president next year. Jay Inslee is on deck today, and I didn’t know much about him, other than that he is the Governor of the State of Washington, but I like what I see here. Thank you, TokyoSand, and your diligent volunteers, for helping us get to know Mr. Inslee!

Political⚡Charge

Inslee Photo via Puget Sound Business Journal

The Democrats have a big field of candidates running for President in 2020. To briefly use a sports analogy, I see our candidates as the starting players on the Blue team, each bringing their own unique strengths to the table in a bid to take our country in a very different direction than the one we’re on today.

But as we well know from 2016, the media (and especially social media) gets fixated on non-substantial issues that take up all the oxygen. Plus, they don’t give the candidates the same treatment or the same amount of airtime.

In order to help voters get to know the Democratic candidates, I’ve enlisted the help of a team of terrific volunteers who have helped gather quotes and information about what the candidates have said or done in regards to the7 issues that midterm voters identified as…

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Julian Castro: The 7 Issues Guide

This is the third of TokyoSand’s excellent series that introduces us to the many candidates who will be running on the democratic ticket for the office of president next year. So far we have met Kamala Harris and Amy Klobuchar, and today we will meet Julian Castro. This is an excellent series providing valuable information about the candidates all in one place, so I hope you’ll take a few minutes to read it. Thank you again, TokyoSand, for this post and permission to share it!

Political⚡Charge

castro Photo Credit: Bahram Mark Sobhani

The Democrats have a big field of candidates running for President in 2020. To briefly use a sports analogy, I see our candidates as the starting players on the Blue team, each bringing their own unique strengths to the table in a bid to take our country in a very different direction than the one we’re on today.

But as we well know from 2016, the media (and especially social media) gets fixated on non-substantial issues that take up all the oxygen. Plus, they don’t give the candidates the same treatment or the same amount of airtime.

In order to help voters get to know the Democratic candidates, I’ve enlisted the help of a team of terrific volunteers who have helped gather quotes and information about what the candidates have said or done in regards to the 7 issues that midterm voters identified as the…

View original post 1,784 more words

A “Power Grab” or Democracy?

Elections in most countries are held on a weekend.  Why?  Because people don’t have to worry about how to make it to the polls after work or on their lunch break.  Because it makes it more convenient for voters.  And thus, it makes it more likely that more people will get off their arses and vote!  The United States is one of the few exceptions, where elections are held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.  Out of 68 nations that hold regular elections, the only ones that do not hold them on weekends are Canada, Denmark, Ireland, Israel, the Netherlands, Norway, the Philippines, South Korea, and the United States.  Some of the countries that hold weekday elections declare election day a public holiday, others permit across-the-board absentee ballots or postal votes.

The voting date in the U.S. makes it harder for poor people and minorities to vote, thus concentrating the vote and expanding the impact of the upper class, the wealthy voters, the WASPS.  In addition, we’ve made it harder for those people by closing many polling places in poorer neighborhoods, thus requiring some to make a trip by bus.  Add to that the restrictive voter ID laws that exist in some states and, well, what we end up with is the majority of the voters being middle or upper income and white.

US voter turnout trails most developed countries. During the 2016 presidential election, less than 56% of the estimated voting-age population in the US voted.  While the majority of US states have voter leave laws that guarantee certain employees a modicum of time off to vote, no federal law currently mandates that employees get time off to cast their ballots. So, when faced with choices like having to take unpaid time off work to vote, waking at the wee hours of the morning to vote so that they’re not late to work, standing in hours-long lines with everyone else who waited until after the workday to cast their ballot, or simply not voting at all, many choose the latter. Of the nonvoters surveyed by the US Census Bureau about the 2008 presidential election, the 2012 presidential election, and numerous other elections, the most commonly cited reason for not voting was being too busy or having conflicting work schedules. Obviously, we need to make some changes.

This month, House democrats introduced a bill known as the For The People Act, or HR1. It is a 571-page compendium of existing problems and proposed solutions in four political hot zones: voting, political money, redistricting, and ethics.  Obviously, I cannot address the entire bill in this post, but one portion of the bill calls for election day to be made a federal holiday in order to make it easier for everyone to vote.  Because of the large number of issues covered by HR1, it is highly unlikely that it will become law any time soon, for it would need to pass the Senate and be signed into law by Trump.  The #2 Fool on the Hill, Mitch McConnell, has already mocked and criticized the idea, saying “Just what we need, another paid holiday for federal workers”.  And how many days off do you take, Mitchie???  And then this …

“So, this is the Democrats’ plan to ‘restore democracy. A political power grab that’s smelling more and more like what it is.”

A “power grab” to ensure that everyone has a chance to vote?  I think not.  I think it’s called “democracy”, Mitchell.  Last September, Senator Bernie Sanders proposed a bill in the Senate, S.3498, titled The Democracy Day Act of 2018, that would have declared election day to be a federal holiday.

“Election Day should be a national holiday so that everyone has the time and opportunity to vote.  While this would not be a cure-all, it would indicate a national commitment to create a more vibrant democracy.”

Needless to say, Sanders’ bill was DOA in the republican-controlled Senate led by Mitch McConnell.

Other points in HR1 pertaining to voting:

  • Voter registration would be made easier. Citizens could register online or get registered automatically, via data from driver’s licenses or other government sources. For federal elections, states would have to provide same-day registration and at least 15 days of early voting. Election Day would be a federal holiday.

  • The bill would crack down on efforts to take voters off the rolls or prevent them from casting ballots. Felons could regain their voting rights after finishing their sentences.


  • Federal elections would require paper ballots to prevent computer tampering. State chief election officials couldn’t get involved in federal campaigns.


  • The bill would declare an intent to revive core anti-discrimination provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that were effectively shut down by the Supreme Court six years ago. It would also state that failing to vote isn’t grounds for taking away a person’s voter registration.

There is much more of substance in this bill that I cannot cover in a single post, but NPR has a highly informative, easy-to-understand article covering the highlights that I suggest you take a look at.  Campaign finance, ethics, and gerrymandering are also covered, all of which sorely need to be addressed if we are to have a chance at fair elections.  Sadly, as I noted before, I don’t think the bill has a snowball’s chance of passing the Senate, for the reality is that if every eligible voter had cast a vote in 2016, we would be writing today about President Hillary Clinton, and McConnell and his band of merry thugs are well aware of it.  Mitch and his cronies are well aware that those disenfranchised voters would put an end to this picnic they’ve been having and hold them accountable for their responsibility to ALL the people of this nation, not only those who hold the nation’s wealth in their dirty hands.

Think Your Vote Isn’t Important?

Well, here we are … the big day has finally arrived after months of divisive rhetoric, dirty tricks to keep voters from the polls, and demoralizing speech by certain corrupt elements in our government.  This has been the ugliest, nastiest election season I have seen in my 67 years. Today is the day those who haven’t already voted will head to the polls.  Well, most will.  Some will.  Others, it seems, have a thousand and one excuses for not voting, the top one seeming to be “my vote doesn’t really matter”, followed by “I don’t have time”.  Think it’s not important that you vote?  Let’s look at somebody who thought it was …

She felt violated, she felt abused, not by a single perpetrator but by the government that was supposed to protect her.Fannie-Lou-HamerHer name was Fannie Lou Hamer. She was born on October 6, 1917. Her parents were sharecroppers in the Mississippi Delta area. As a child, she often went hungry and without shoes. In the winter, she tied rags on her feet to keep her feet warm. She began working the fields when she was only 6 years old.

Later she realized she was not considered “a first class citizen” because she was poor, because she was black, because she was a woman.

In 1961, she went to a hospital to remove a tumor. She would be given a hysterectomy without her consent by a white doctor who was following the state plan to reduce the number of poor blacks in the state. Fannie Lou Hamer became another victim of the involuntary or uninformed sterilization of black women, common in the South in the 1960s. They were commonly called “Mississippi appendectomies” because women would be told they needed to get their appendix out, but instead they would be sterilized.”

“In the North Sunflower County Hospital,” Hamer would say, “I would say about six out of the 10 Negro women that go to the hospital are sterilized with the tubes tied.”

The government-funded program started in the 1930s targeting people in “institutions for mental illness” then slowly targeting “the blind, the deaf, the disabled, alcoholics, those with epilepsy, and ultimately the rural poor on welfare.”

This was the turning point in Fannie Lou Hamer’s life.

She would say, “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.”

She decided at that point that she would fight for human rights, human dignity, and she would never give in, to anyone.

She soon realized that the only way to improve her life and the life of other poor blacks was to register to vote. If she was prevented to register or saw others who were prevented to vote, she would speak out and protest, if necessary.

She became relentless. She would be fired from her job, driven from the plantation she had called home for nearly two decades, she would be threatened, arrested, beaten, and shot at, leading to one arrest where she would be beaten nearly to death, suffering permanent kidney damage.

When she was stopped by police, she would start singing “This Little Light of Mine” and “Go Tell It on the Mountain.”

She would say, “I guess if I’d had any sense, I’d have been a little scared — but what was the point of being scared? The only thing they could do was kill me, and it kinda seemed like they’d been trying to do that a little bit at a time since I could remember.”

Fannie Lou Hamer would become a tireless champion for racial equality, working for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), fighting racial segregation and injustice in the South. She also helped to found the National Women’s Political Caucus. She was instrumental in organizing Mississippi’s Freedom Summer for the SNCC, and she later became the vice-chair of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, which she represented at the 1964 Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

At the Democratic National Convention, Hamer would be seen making her way through a group of old, white men to tell the world her story. At times, she fought back tears, such as recounting the time she was beaten in a Mississippi jail. She would add, “I was in jail when Medgar Evers was murdered.”

She would ask, “Is this America, the land of the free and the home of the brave, where we have to sleep with our telephones off the hooks because our lives be threatened daily, because we want to live as decent human beings, in America?”

At the convention, rumors circulated that one of the toughest men in America, President Lyndon B. Johnson, was terrified of Hamer, her courage, and her voice.

Hamer would say, “We got to fight in America . . . for ALL the people.”

Still think it isn’t important, that your vote doesn’t count, or that you just can’t find time?  Do us all a favour and … think again.

**Note:  The header photo is John Lewis, Civil Rights leader and member of the U.S. House of Representatives serving Georgia’s 5th district, during the Selma to Montgomery march in 1965 in the struggle for voting rights.

All New Episode of Snarky Snippets!

I was in a bit of a time crunch … where do those hours go???  I get just a bit ahead, and BLAM!  I’m behind again before I even said ‘hello’ to myself!  I think there is an overall conspiracy to rob us of a few hours each day, thinking we won’t notice, for I am not the only one complaining about the lack of time.  And I’m retired … I don’t know how I ever found time for a full-time job!  Anyway, I digress.  Being a bit short of time, and having seen a few stories that made my blood boil, I am opting this morning for an all-new episode of Snarky Snippets.  The snark is in full-throttle mode, so be forewarned.


Welcome to America …

It happened at Andy’s Restaurant in Lovettsville, Virginia.  A woman and her family, who have asked not to be identified, were eating dinner.  Some members of the family were here visiting from another country and, since the visitors do not speak English, they were conversing in Spanish.  The visitors got a good taste of what Americans are like when a woman began screaming and cursing at them for speaking their native tongue, and demanding to see their passports.

white-woman

Angry bigoted white woman

“Get the f—k out, back to your f—ing country. Go back to your f—ing country. You do not come over here and freeload on America. I’m tired of this s—t.”

This story made me so angry that I was shaking.  I was raised in a bilingual family and frankly I enjoy speaking Spanish … it is a beautiful language and much simpler than English.  When I get the opportunity, I speak Spanish, whether at a restaurant, store or in my own neighborhood, for I have several Latino neighbors.  The family members visiting from Guatemala will no doubt always remember their first encounter with an American, as will the 7-year-old girl that was with the family.

Nice, white woman … real nice.  Hope you slept well that night.


Two stamps or one?

A few nights ago, the girls and I filled out our mail-in ballots for the November 6th election.  It is a fairly simple process, the instructions were clear and concise, and we had no problem.  But when we placed the ballot into one envelope, and that into a slightly larger envelope as directed, something caught my eye.

“Affix proper postage.  Post Office will not deliver without sufficient postage.”

Typically, one stamp would suffice.  But something niggled in the back of my mind, so I went in search of.  Guess what?  In my county, two stamps are required, although in the county just south of us, and the two to the east and southeast, only a single stamp is required.  I wonder … surely that wouldn’t have anything to do with the fact that this is a predominantly African-American community, would it?  Oh no, perish the thought.

It wasn’t the fact that the extra stamp was required that bothered me, but that nowhere did it tell the sender that if you lived in this county, two stamps are required.  How many people in my county will place a single stamp on their ballots, not knowing that two are needed?  People, if you are filing a ballot in absentia, no matter what state or county you live in, take an extra minute to find out how much postage is required in your neck of the woods!


SCOTUS protects another liar …

wilbur rossWilbur Ross lied.  He lied about the citizenship question that is being proposed for the 2020 census reporting form.  He said that the Department of Justice requested it, but in fact it was Ross himself who decided to add the question.  Ross claims the justification for the question is that it will help enforce the Voting Rights Act, but that is yet another lie.  What it will do is intimidate some from participating and result in an inaccurate census.  If the question makes it to the census form, this writer will not be answering the question.  Period.

Several states and civil rights groups have filed a lawsuit to stop the administration from adding a citizenship question.  When the case comes to trial, Wilbur Ross, having lied and been caught in the lie, will be expected to answer questions.  Or, perhaps not …

The government had asked the Supreme Court to block questioning of Ross, and on Monday the Supreme Court complied with the wishes of the Trump administration.  For now, at least, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, who had no business ordering a change to the census form, and who lied to cover his mischief, will not be deposed when the case is heard.

I will have more on this later, but for now, suffice it to say that the United States Supreme Court is no longer a branch completely independent of the executive.  Great job, guys.  Let’s protect a few more lying, bigoted cheats, shall we?


And thus concludes this episode of Filosofa’s Snarky Snippets.  Have a great day, friends!

Voting In America

The New York Times has started a series on voting in America, which will run up to Election Day in November.  I thought the first part of the series, originally published on 10 March 2018, was worth sharing with you.  It is a bit lengthier than my average post, but there are points here that I think we all need to consider as we head into the midterms.  Please take a few moments to read and think about these things.


Vote. That’s Just What They Don’t Want You to Do.

This is a fragile moment for the nation. The integrity of democratic institutions is under assault from without and within, and basic standards of honesty and decency in public life are corroding. If you are horrified at what is happening in Washington and in many states, you can march in the streets, you can go to town halls and demand more from your representatives, you can share the latest outrageous news on your social media feed — all worthwhile activities. But none of it matters if you don’t go out and vote.

It’s a perennial conundrum for the world’s oldest democracy: Why do so many Americans fail to go to the polls? Some abstainers think that they’re registering a protest against the awful choices. They’re fooling themselves. Nonvoters aren’t protesting anything; they’re just putting their lives and futures in the hands of the people who probably don’t want them to vote. We’ve seen recently what can happen when people choose instead to take their protest to the ballot box. We saw it in Virginia in November. We saw it, to our astonishment, in Alabama in December. We may see it this week in western Pennsylvania. Voting matters.

Casting a ballot is the best opportunity most of us will ever get to have a say in who will represent us, what issues they will address and how they will spend our money. The right to vote is so basic, President Lyndon Johnson said in 1965, that without it “all others are meaningless.”

And yet every election, tens of millions of Americans stay home. Studies of turnout among developed nations consistently rank the United States near the bottom. In the most recent midterms, in 2014, less than 37 percent of eligible voters went to the polls — the lowest turnout in more than 70 years. In 2016,

The problem isn’t just apathy, of course. Keeping people from voting has been an American tradition from the nation’s earliest days, when the franchise was restricted to white male landowners. It took a civil war, constitutional amendments, violently suppressed activism against discrimination and a federal act enforcing the guarantees of those amendments to extend this basic right to every adult. With each expansion of voting rights, the nation inched closer to being a truly representative democracy. Today, only one group of Americans may be legally barred from voting — those with felony records, a cruel and pointless restriction that disproportionately silences people of color.

In the months leading up to the midterm elections on Nov. 6, when the House, Senate and statehouses around the country are up for grabs, the editorial board will explore the complicated question of why Americans don’t vote, and what can be done to overcome the problem. The explanations fall into three broad categories.

SUPPRESSION

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.

Stories like these are distressingly familiar, as more and more states pass laws that make voting harder for certain groups of voters, usually minorities, but also poor people, students and the elderly. They require forms of photo identification that minorities are much less likely to have or be able to get — purportedly to reduce fraud, of which there is virtually no evidence. They eliminate same-day registration, close polling stations in minority areas and cut back early-voting hours and Sunday voting.

These new laws may not be as explicitly discriminatory as the poll taxes or literacy tests of the 20th century, but they are part of the same long-term project to keep minorities from the ballot box. And because African-Americans vote overwhelmingly for Democrats, the laws are nearly always passed by Republican-dominated legislatures.

In a lawsuit challenging Wisconsin’s strict new voter-ID law, a former staff member for a Republican lawmaker testified that Republicans were “politically frothing at the mouth” at the prospect that the law would drive down Democratic turnout. It worked: After the 2016 election, one survey found that the law prevented possibly more than 17,000 registered voters, disproportionately poor and minority, from voting. Donald Trump carried the state by fewer than 23,000 votes.

FAILING TECHNOLOGY

The legitimacy of an election is only as good as the reliability of the machines that count the votes. And yet 43 states use voting machines that are no longer being made, and are at or near the end of their useful life. Many states still manage their voter-registration rolls using software programs from the 1990s. It’s no surprise that this sort of infrastructure failure hits poorer and minority areas harder, often creating hourslong lines at the polls and discouraging many voters from coming out at all. Upgrading these machines nationwide would cost at least $1 billion, maybe much more, and Congress has consistently failed to provide anything close to sufficient funding to speed along the process.

Elections are hard to run with aging voting technology, but at least those problems aren’t intentional. Hacking and other types of interference are. In 2016, Russian hackers were able to breach voter registration systems in Illinois and several other states, and targeted dozens more. They are interfering again in advance of the 2018 midterms, according to intelligence officials, who are demanding better cybersecurity measures. These include conducting regular threat assessments, using voting machines that create paper trails and conducting postelection audits. Yet President Trump, who sees any invocation of Russian interference as a challenge to the legitimacy of his election, consistently downplays or dismisses these threats. Meanwhile, Mr. Trump’s State Department has not spent a dime of the $120 million Congress allocated to it to fight disinformation campaigns by Russia and other countries.

DISILLUSIONMENT

Some people wouldn’t vote if you put a ballot box in their living room. Whether they believe there is no meaningful difference between the major parties or that the government doesn’t care what they think regardless of who is in power, they have detached themselves from the political process.

That attitude is encouraged by many in government, up to and including the current president, who cynically foster feelings of disillusionment by hawking fake tales of rigged systems and illegal voters, even as they raise millions of dollars from wealthy donors and draw legislative maps to entrench their power.

The disillusionment is understandable, and to some degree it’s justified. But it creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. When large numbers of people don’t vote, elections are indeed decided by narrow, unrepresentative groups and in the interests of wealth and power. The public can then say, See? We were right. They don’t care about us. But when more people vote, the winning candidates are more broadly representative and that improves government responsiveness to the public and enhances democratic legitimacy.

These obstacles to voting and political participation are very real, and we don’t discount their impact on turnout. The good news is there are fixes for all of them.

The most important and straightforward fix is to make it easier for people to register and vote. Automatic voter registration, which first passed in Oregon just three years ago, is now the law or practice in nine states, both red and blue, and the District of Columbia. Washington State is on the cusp of becoming the tenth, and New Jersey and Nevada may be close behind. More people also turn out when states increase voting opportunities, such as by providing mail-in ballots or by expanding voting hours and days.

The courts should be a bulwark protecting voting rights, and many lower federal courts have been just that in recent years, blocking the most egregious attacks on voting in states from North Carolina to Wisconsin. But the Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. has made this task much harder, mainly by gutting a key provision of the Voting Rights Act in a 2013 case. Decisions like that one, which split 5 to 4, depend heavily on who is sitting in those nine seats — yet another reason people should care who gets elected.

In the end, the biggest obstacle to more Americans voting is their own sense of powerlessness. It’s true: Voting is a profound act of faith, a belief that even if your voice can’t change policy on its own, it makes a difference. Consider the attitude of Andrea Anthony, the Wisconsin woman who was deterred by the state’s harsh new voter-ID law after voting her whole adult life. “Voting is important to me because I know I have a little, teeny, tiny voice, but that is a way for it to be heard,” Ms. Anthony said. “Even though it’s one vote, I feel it needs to count.”

She’s right. The future of America is in your hands. More people voting would not only mean “different political parties with different platforms and different candidates,” the writer Rebecca Solnit said. “It would change the story. It would change who gets to tell the story.”

There are a lot of stories desperately needing to be told right now, but they won’t be as long as millions of Americans continue to sit out elections. Lament the state of the nation as much as you want. Then get out and vote.

Universal Suffrage?

Ever wonder whether it really makes sense for everyone to have the right to vote, especially given the results of our last disastrous election? Make no mistake, I support universal suffrage fully, completely. However, our friend Hugh raises some salient points that, while they do not change my mind, they do provide food for thought. Please take a few minutes to read his thoughtful and thought-provoking post! Thanks, Hugh!

hughcurtler

One of the very thorny problems the English (and later the Americans) worried about in the nineteenth century was the question of suffrage: who should vote? The question centered around the issue of whether only those who know best should vote or whether everyone should vote. The concern expressed was whether those who are “ignorant” — i.e., uneducated or the “luckless poor” in the words of Thomas Carlyle — should be allowed to make political decisions that affect the entire nation.

George Eliot dealt with the question in her novel Felix Holt: Radical and it seemed clear from that novel (if good novels can be said to make any single position “clear”) that Eliot was in favor of extending the vote to all men regardless of whether or not they owned property. Interestingly, however, Eliot, despite her liberal leanings, did not think women should be given the vote. In fact…

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