Death Knell for Democracy

Conservatives have never cottoned to the concept of the universal franchise, the right of the people to elect their chosen representatives for State governments or the United States Congress. They would prefer that fewer people be allowed to vote, rather than extending the franchise to as large a group as possible. If it were up to conservatives, only the landed gentry, those possessed of property, and those with wealth would be allowed to cast ballots of any description.

To this end, conservatives try their utmost to restrict the vote, to restrict the hours of polling stations, to reduce the number of polling stations, or to impose onerous conditions on those that should by rights be able to vote.

Arizona, representing the epitome of conservative ideas, introduced Proposition 200 in 2004 which prohibits officials from registering to vote any person who cannot produce satisfactory evidence of United States citizenship. The National Voter Registration Act allows any citizen to register to vote, without any added burden. The Arizona proposition conflicts with this Act and thus conflicts with federal law.

The original Voter Registration act was introduced to prevent abuses of the system, just as Arizona is abusing the system by rejecting the registration of eligible voters. The act was introduced to prevent mostly southern states from denying the right to vote to their mostly black and Hispanic citizens. Arizona, as per usual, cares little for the federal government, despite the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution which ensures that federal statutes override those of the states.

According to the federal law, anyone applying for a drivers license, or mails in a form on which they swear that they are citizens under penalty of perjury has a right to be registered to vote. Arizona, and a host of other states do not accept this law, and draw up their own laws restricting the right to vote.

In the 2012 elections, 31,550 mostly Hispanics were denied the right to vote, despite listing the United States as their birth place. Most of these were rejected because they lacked required identification. The burden on those citizens to produce identification amounts to a poll tax, clearly violates the 24th Amendment to the Constitution. If any citizen has to pay any amount of money to vote, the law is unconstitutional and should be struck down.

According to the constitutions election clause, states can decide the manner in which elections can take place, but ultimately, the framers of the constitution foresaw a uniform national voting system. This is only fair, since the states send their representatives to Congress, and any system that biased state elections would bias Congress in favor of those states, effectively nullifying the votes of voters in other states.

Conservatives, of course, have no intention of holding free and fair elections, any more than conservatives anywhere allow the holding of free and fair elections. It is ironic that many Republicans claim to be part of the greatest democracy on Earth, while destroying that democratic system from within. They want to win elections by any means possible other than the one that is most honest, ethical and transparent.

The most effective democratic process is to ensure a system that allows as many citizens to vote in national elections as possible. States should not be reducing the number of people who are eligible to vote through disingenuous means, rather they should be extending the franchise to as many as possible. In local elections, it is my belief that all legal residents, whether citizens or not, should be extended the right to vote. They do, after all, pay taxes and contribute to the economy and their communities just as citizens do.

When we add to the already time consuming process of voting and registering, people who are disabled, those who are unable to read and write, those who cannot get to a registration office, those who do not understand the process, the ill and infirm are effectively denied the right to vote, the most basic rights extended to U.S. citizens.

There are few other rights that accrue to citizens that do not accrue to residents, other than running for public office and being able to vote. To deny that right is ultimately to deny that they are citizens. Is the creed of the United States not one of inclusivity? Arizona is adding requirements to vote that do not exist in all other states, thereby denying their citizens their constitutional right to vote.

Arizona claims that their statute prevents people from voting fraudulently, but by their own admission, they only managed to find 19 people registered illegally out of a total 2.7 million votes cast. Yet, they denied the vote to more than thirty thousand people based purely on their inability to produce documentation. Conveniently for conservatives, they were mostly Hispanic, a voting block that voted mostly for President Obama.

Justice Antonin Scalia, conservative standard-bearer on the Supreme Court claims that the Voting Rights Act is just another racial entitlement program, as though voting were a right not extended by the Constitution. The Act allows the federal government to supervise elections in certain southern states to make sure that they do not introduce discriminatory laws.

Many southern states who are not supervised have done exactly that, introduce discriminatory laws aimed at preventing certain demographic groups from voting. Scalia claims that those states which are supervised now have an almost perfect record of voting, therefore should be allowed out from under the supervision of their states.

What he does not articulate is that the very reason that their voting record is so good is that they are supervised. Quod Erat Demonstrandum (QED). Those states that attempt to introduce discriminatory laws ought to be sanctioned and placed under supervision, since they cannot adhere to ethical standards.

Justice Sotomayor, the newest member of the Supreme Court is fighting hard to ensure broad national authority to protect the right of citizens to vote, while Scalia wants states to be able to decide their own rules. In a federal system, unless the voting rules are the same across the country, a small number of states can decide national outcomes, such as the election of a president. Voting must be identical across the country for a democratic system to work effectively.

Sotomayor argued that if the Voting Rights act was intended to simplify the process of registering to vote, how is adding another layer of bureaucracy beneficial to that aim? The attorneys for Arizona are finding it difficult to argue their case before the court. Scalia wants Arizona to challenge the entire Voting Rights Act, in other words, deriding the right of citizens to vote freely and fairly with the minimum of bureaucracy.

Conservatives have always detested bureaucracy, until they are able to institute it in their own states, then they fall in love with it. The purpose is not fraud, the purpose is ultimately to deny people the right to vote.

Scalia claims that if a person is willing to violate the voting laws, you are as likely to violate the perjury laws in swearing that you are a citizen in order to vote. My question must be, what possible value does exercising a single vote in a regional or national election have to the individual. You are not paid, and in fact may lose income by not working during the time it takes to vote.

There is no motivation for noncitizens to vote. In order for them to make any difference to the outcome of an election they would have to vote in overwhelming numbers. As it is, the number of purportedly fraudulent votes amounts to a rounding error within a rounding error, and would have no impact on the outcome of an election. Unless the state of Arizona can show motive, there is no fraud.

As for Scalia claiming that voting is a racial entitlement, as a constitutional judge, he should know that the Constitution clearly gives citizens the right to vote. Perhaps he needs to revisit his class in Constitutional Law 101. Even a non-citizen like me knows this much about the Constitution.

What astonishes me is that justices as inept, incompetent and biased are allowed to sit on the highest court in the land. Justice Clarence Thomas has not said a single word in his entire couple of decades on the Court. The Supreme Court should be about dispensing justice, not imperious inanities.

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