Book of the Month

Our Distressed Defective Democracy

I think it is past time we admitted the obvious, shucked off our mantles of denial and shame, and own the truth. We can shout it out or sing it in harmony, as we confess the all too obvious…..

It’s our fault that our form of democracy is failing.

Oh, don’t even try to pretend you didn’t know it. 

But we can fix it!  Really!  For sure!  Yes, we can!  But, will we?  How?

I know what I’m about to propose is radical and most likely will create all kinds of outrage, no doubt including accusations complete with cheeky labels like anarchist, commie (channeling Allen West), turncoat, even twit and bloody prat.  

Oh, if you are wondering about the usage of British slang, it’s paying homage to Winston Churchill who best stated the motivation for this post when he declared:

"The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter."

Ouch.  Yeah, the truth hurts, but not near as painful as the ongoing leakage of red, white and blue that keeps weeping from our self-inflicted wounds.  Nope, not talkin’ about the farce brought about by the citizens united travesty or even the wonky actions of the GOP’s candidates for POTUS.  The nucleus of our corrupted and impotent system is We, the People.  The voters are our weakest link!

(I’m not advocating we adopt the Brit’s mode of governance, after all the results from their pomp and pompous aren’t any better than our current Ponzi scheme form of governance.)

So, how can we fix what seems to be hopelessly broken?  

ALERT!  WARNING!  CAUTION! What comes next is not for those who are faint of mind and body.  Nor for those who are prone to unbridled violent outbursts, or enjoy a sense of faux entitlement, or have found their niche by fulfilling all the ‘you know you are a redneck if…..’ hypothesis, and/or subscribe to the NRA theory that no house is truly a home unless there’s a gun in every room.

If any of the above represents you and yours, stop in the name of the democracy you profess to love and proceed to another post (or go walk it off).  Seriously, turn away now.

       I proffer that less than five percent (5%) of current voters have genuine knowledge of the history and credentials of the candidates, much less know anything factual or of import about current governmental legislative actions.  It’s my contention that since the majority chooses to vote in ignorance, it is small wonder we have such a horrific mess.  The government we deserve indeed. 

       The danger of fast food to our health and welfare is not near as hazardous to our collective wellbeing as the drive thru window mentality we adhere to in our voting processes. We want instant gratification with the least amount of effort and forethought.  If they don’t give us our fries with our burgers one time, we’ll only suffer a temporary sense of ire and disappointment. But, in deciding who will provide the best leadership of our country, every vote cast without due diligence creates consequences of much greater and longer lasting impact.  Just as consuming too much fast food is harmful to the human heart and body, our sloth has damaged and obstructed the heart and body of our country’s democratic processes.

        It has always astounded me that while we robustly wave our banner of democracy, we do so little to protect the integrity of our democracy.  People have killed and been killed, marched on in hope when all seemed hopeless. They endured endless sorrows in their quest to achieve the rights our nation was created to embody. Yet, when any warn We, The People, that we need to put forth more of an effort to protect and sustain the integrity and value of our democracy, this is met with howls of outrage.

        Considering the sacrifices offered up to attain democracy, it’s all the more perverse that we are like spoiled, snotty kids who fight over the shiny object, but then neglect to care for it, leaving it outside to rust and ruin.

Truth is, our government has become a reflection of our societal weaknesses, not our strengths.  

        In my district, about 20% of our voter’s registration listings are not valid voters. Some are dead, others moved away or don’t really have their main residence here. One voter, who I know, moved away for over a decade, registering and voting in her new home state; when returning here, discovered she didn’t have to re-register as she had never been removed from our list.  While she had no intent to commit voter fraud, there is another who enjoyed dual registration and for years, without remorse or consequences, voted here and also in her actual state of residence.  If you think this isn’t going on everywhere, you haven’t done the research.

            It’s impossible, without new mandates invoked to improve current federal regulatory oversight, to stop this form of abuse.

           As the primary season proved, even the tallying of votes too often delivers incorrect data.  This has consistently proven to be the case in many of our local, state and national elections too.  Yet, as it only gets worse, there is little clamor by the masses for a universal implementation of one system that can deliver accuracy for all ballots cast and the ability to have the count easily verified.  OMG, there are still too many districts who don’t keep hard copy records of voters original ballots if needed to validate the reports.  The noise of our citizen's apathy is deafening.

To ensure the sanctity of our processes, we need to make some major changes

           Most, I’m sure, will find fault with the proposal offered here that only addresses part of the problem.  I’m also certain that some have even better viable solutions.  Hopefully those who negate and critique will submit feasible and positive alternatives.

Proposal:

  1. From January to March, every four years, in year preceding a Presidential Election, implement and maintain a mandatory voter registration renewal for every voter.  (We have to renew driver’s licenses and auto registrations, even warehouse store memberships.) What’s old and sullied, becomes new again!
  2. All renewals must be in person.*
  3. Existing voters must advise which state they were previously registered in and via computer, this can be verified and data posted as to renewal date and site.
  4. Each renewal registrant will have their picture taken for placement on voter’s registration card.  The card must be reviewed by election official at polls.
  5. Cards will be mailed to current address, cannot be forwarded. 
  6. All states will be required to post on internet their voter registration listings inclusive of names without addresses or other personal information.
  7. Each state will have criteria in place to ensure annual purging of voters registration (i.e. deaths, name changes, relocations outside of state).
  8. Each state must, if applicable, within 10 days, send notice to previous state of residence for new relocated voters. 
  9. The oversight regulations for absentee ballots reviewed:  A copy of the voter’s registration card must be included with each absentee ballot submitted.
  10. All mail-in absentee ballots return addresses must be verified to be same in name and locale as on registration listing.  (And no, this is not being done in many districts.)

*Must provide current proof of identification via driver’s license, passport, or other approved identifier.If unable due to health or other valid reason to apply in person, legal representative must provide affidavit assigning legal rights, with applicant’s valid I.D. and recent photo.

Those reaching legal voting age after requisite renewal dates will be allowed to register in their home state up to date of election.

11.   Every renewal applicant will be given a ‘voters tutorial handbook’, with current information about recent governmental actions.  At time of renewal will have to take and pass a test based on information delivered in tutorial.  They can take the test as many times as needed. 

Okay, wipe the spittle off the screen, take a breath and consider this:

        There would be no undue burden on the poor, as they would incur no cost.  For those who have no real property address, this is not an insurmountable obstacle. 

         My stance is that if a voter is not willing to expend a few hours of their time and effort every four years for the benefit of voting, as well as to ensure the veracity of our voting processes, then they should be denied the privilege.  No citizen (who by law is eligible) would be denied if they make the choice to participate. 

        C’mon, if you have a better way (and I’m sure most do) to improve our broken electoral process, please share. 

"Democracy is the worst form of government except for all those others that have been tried."      Winston Churchill

When I send my daughter money, Western Union manages to only pay her once, no matter how many different agents she goes to.

 

She has no ID, so we use a test question.

 

( PS I'm less  worried about double voting than non voting...)

 

Let's pay 100 per voter, let western union handle, give them a scratch-off to hand to the voting clerk (each is unique).  Ballot in, scratch cover off, go collect your benjamin now that you have the test question answer.

 

I'd rather have someone who has taken the time and effort to research and learn the facts vote twice than another vote once in ignorance. 

But, the goal is to at least attempt to ensure minimal voter fraud and arm those who do vote with a  modicum of knowledge about the candidates, government hierarchy, history and recent legislative actions.

I kept waiting for the horrible, disgusting part ... but then I realized, you've proposed a solution which won't solve the problem as you defined it.  I don't know that you can show a direct connection between voter apathy and ignorance in voting choices.  On the other hand, I don't think that requiring re-registration is a bad idea, in fact, I think it's an excellent idea.  I just don't see how that makes the electorate more educated about their voting choices.   Your assumption is that voters are apathetic because they take voting for granted, and if they had to work harder, they would appreciate it more.  I don't see how that changes things other than to weed out the very laziest and the 'couldn't-care-less' voters, making the remaining voters more representative of the extremes on both sides.  

Perhaps if you included a written exam on history and current events that voters had to pass each time they renewed their voting registration ... but, unfortunately, that would be ruled constitutionally unfair to idiots and morons.  And God knows, they need protecting. 

My proposal would be more grass-roots;  people like us need to educate / persuade other people, one on one.  In 2009, when I started a campaign to raise awareness of the disease I have, called Ankylosing Spondylitis,  I challenged my fellow 'Spondys' for the month of April, (which I had chosen as Spondylitis Awareness Month), to go out and speak to 30 people that they did not know (that's 1 person a day), and tell them about Spondylitis.  Y'see, our problem has been that, while the disease affects approx. 2.7 million Americans,  (more than Multiple Sclerosis, Cystic Fibrosis and Lou Gehrig's disease combined),  most people have never heard of the disease.  There are even doctors who seem unfamiliar with it.  

Slowly, that is beginning to change, and I'd like to think that one small reason has been what I call the "Stranger Challenge." We planted the name in the minds of strangers and told them how it affected our lives, so they have an image to go with the name.  Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS) is now a lot more known that it was just 5 years ago.  Which is ironic considering it is one of the oldest disease known to mankind.  But I digress.  

As Progressives, I think we all need to stop expecting someone else to do the convincing for us and start going out and talking to people one on one, and by that, I mean, not just our friends, but strangers. Go out and engage people, not casually, but determinedly, plant a seed of Progressive thought in someone you don't know.  It just might bloom on Election day.  

Per your statement:

Perhaps if you included a written exam on history and current events that voters had to pass each time they renewed their voting registration...

In the blog's body is:

  1. Every renewal applicant will be given a ‘voters tutorial handbook’, with current information about recent governmental actions.  At time of renewal will have to take and pass a test based on information delivered in tutorial.  They can take the test as many times as needed.

About it being unconstitutional, what would be the foundation?

Yes, we should all educate, I attempt to give various resources that are bi partisan and include basic info regarding how our political infrastructure is structured re: Congress, President duties and powers.  

But, it isn't informing about progressive doctrine, but about the non-partisan basics.  Not to recruit but to deliver foundation and info about current laws and impact.

 

I'm no Constitutional scholar, but I would think the issue would be raised that a test requiring knowledge in exchange for the right to vote discriminates against the uneducated and/or under-educated.  And of course, the Right wing propaganda machine would claim it is Government intrusion.  

Of course, even if it's constitutional and completely about non-partisan issues, will it be administered by panels that can be corrupted by partisans (Think, the Texas school boards that decide what goes into schoolbooks for most of the nation) or will the control be given as a 'spoil' to whichever party wins the election for Governor?

 

 

It would have to be a federal mandate that is uniform for all voting districts regardless of locale.

It would be along lines of exams/ballots that are computed by 'machine count' such as uniform system referenced in post.  Hard copies would be kept for verification.

I would argue that if one doesn't have any basic knowledge of government and current foundational fact, then that voter's participation would be without merit and would query why they would want to participate.

I would respond simply with, What gives you (or the government) the right to know or care about why I want to vote? Isn't participatory democracy enough of a reason? 

We have surrendered to quantity v. quality rule as noted.  If We, The People, don't care enough to put forth some effort and accept a modicum of responsibility for our democracy then we will always have chaos and dysfunctional rule born and bred in those who choose to be ignorant.

No, participatory democracy without knowledge is not a good enough reason (IMO).

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness has no required learning or mandatory participation in democracy.  Of course, it's in our best interest to do so, and a better informed electorate would be a wonderful thing, but understanding the way government functions and knowing current events and understanding issues, holds no guarantee of more thoughtful outcomes of elections.   Many people vote with their hearts, not their brains.  

To me, mandatory testing just means the spinning from the two sides will get slightly more complex and / or nuanced. 

Your diagnosis is sound but your prescription. while sound, is a bit complicated.  That and it leaves the dominant political parties unscathed.  They are as much or more of the problem as we voters.

I, too, have explored various ideas on electoral reform and have settled (for now) on the idea of demarchy or sortition for all government workers both elected and not.

Establish qualifications (job descriptions), terms and limitations for each position then pick someone by lot from all qualified candidates who apply.

 

I applaud your research and intent, but demarchy nor sortition is the answer for me. Individual freedoms and responsibilities are the goal I seek. I believe that many more, once positively exposed to government operations and actions, will become more involved and of course, wiser about the processes.

Both of your choices seem to be a form of abdication, better to just not participate IMO.  

Individual freedoms and responsibilities are the goal I seek.

Do you not think more people would be interested in government if there were a greater chance that they could actually participate in it on some level other than voting or jury duty?  

Also, it is doubtful that every thing would be settled by lot anyway, just the more routine, established short-term things.   Reserve voting and thus voters attention for more important things:  candidate pools, economic goals, etc.

I am all for an engaged citizenry but much, much more engaged than just voting.

Emma, just another quick note re:

....leaves the dominant political parties unscathed. They are as much or more of the problem as we voters.

Those within the dominant political parties are We, The People, and included in our current voter roles. Many members of the parties are some of the most ignorant about our government processes whether it be factual knowledge of our constitution, et al. or about current legislation cause and effect to populace.  Political party membership does not, as we know, ever equate to voting wisely.

True that there is nothing fundamentally wrong with political parties.

Unfortunately, they become as entrenched as our two major parties are and collude at the legislative level to handicap other individuals or organizations from competing against them,  

That and the party leadership devolves to the most obsessed with the most money.  

Definitely need to do something about the parties that be.

 

Sounds like a national ID card to me.

I suppose if the info is not used for sales, campaigning and criminal prosecution, it's a good idea.

I don't know about literacy tests, takes me back to the 60's!

Illiterate people have to live under the law, too.  Not sure how you can justify denying them the right to vote.

Illiterate or ignorant.  

Not being able to read or read English specifically can be worked around but voters should not be ignorant of how the system is designed and supposed to work.  Free online civics classes for everyone.

 

Love the idea of more and better civics education.  Would even partake.  Always stunned by what I don't know (but think I do).

Emma, you're brilliant!  On line civics 'primer' is perfect concept.  

Thanks.

dd, it's not a literacy test.  Think more along the lines of a citizenship test quiz. wink

I read your line about how few people understand the particulars of legislation being discussed and I tried not to be defensive about it.  It's very easy for a news junkie like me to claim to be "informed" because of my passable cocktail party knowledge of the hot button issues.

Then I realize that I was never quite sure whether, at my old address, my congressional representative was Jerrold Nadler or Carolyn Maloney (It was Maloney).  We just moved and I don't know who my Rep is right now.  I'll look that up after I finish spouting off here.

So, yes, we all have gaps in our knowledge.  But, let's think about legislation.  The way it's written makes it unknowable.  The system we've adopted, where bills can be endlessly amended and where laws have to be letter specific rather than based in principles can make even the simplest legislation unreadable.  Some of this stuff gets to the Supreme Court.  Most of it doesn't.  I still don't know whether or not Obama's last budget authorization for the Pentagon allows him to indefinitely detain U.S. citizens suspected of terrorist activities.  The language used to write our laws is deliberately verbose to the point of impenetrability.  The very idea that you could, say, attach a rider concerning abortion to a bill written about food safety inspection is absurd and indefensible.

I don't think that the people are too stupid to govern themselves, or to understand their government.  I think that the government has grown ridiculously complex and that if not more than 5% of the population has any idea what Congress is voting on, the same is probably true of our congressional reps, who don't personally read the bills but rely on staffs of analysts to guide their decisions.

Bills should be short (less than 20 pages) and written in the common tongue.  Amendments and riders should be demonstrably relevant to the thesis of the bill.  That should be the standard.  I understand that there's horse-trading that goes on in Congress.  Let me put a rider funding an interstate in Oklahoma and I'll vote for your Grand Canyon Restoration bill.  But those trades could be done in public, instead.  The Senator from Arizona can outright say, "If my colleague from Oklahoma supports Grand Canyon restoration, I'll support building his highway."  That's honest.  That's understandable.

So long as we churn out Byzantine, thousand page documents as law, people will not know what's being legislated.  Most people don't know what Infinite Jest was about either.

Okay, I decided to find my congressional rep before I hit post.  It actually takes two searches!  First, you go here:

https://writerep.house.gov/writerep/welcome.shtml

Which is proof that even that House knows that the people don't even know who their reps are.  But, for it to work, you need your full zip code, not just the five digits everyone remembers.

So, you also have to go here:

https://tools.usps.com/go/ZipLookupAction!input.action

It's not rocket science, but it isn't exactly easy.

Turns out my Rep is now... Jerrold Nadler!

Destor, you are absolutely right.  But, is it our elected officials fault or ours that things are such a mess (legislative actions).  Why haven't we demanded that the bills be less than 20 pages and/or exclusive to the issue on the bill?  Where's the outcry?

I strongly believe that if voters 'needed to invest' more in process, great things could happen!

Glad you know your rep. and appreciate your posting the link.  Wonder how everyone here would do on pop quiz about the basics?

I honestly don't know how I'd do on a pop quiz.  I considered writing in one of my columns that the Constitution is easily readable and understandable and that so much of our issues of interpretation are nonsense.

But then I read the darned thing and I rethought my premise.

Here's my suggestion.  Post a pop quiz, to which you know the answers.  Make them questions of fact rather than theory.  I'll agree to take it, publicly, without reference to any outside sources (no Googling, no grabbing books).  I bet others will, too.  Then we'll see.

Okay.  I'll create one that will be something akin to what I'm thinking for voter's hypothetical 'quiz'.

Hey Aunt Sam, your proposal has a lot in common with Republican voter ID schemes, and they offer the same rationale: avoiding voter fraud.

But it's a ruse, and you're getting suckered. First, there is no reliable evidence of sufficient voter fraud to make a lick of difference in our political representation. Please don't tell us that we "haven't done the research." You wrote the blog and made the proposal. You do the research. Try the Heritage Foundation; I'm sure they'll have some good facts for you.

Second, you have to ask, why would the Heritage Foundation be so concerned about voter fraud? Because they share your concern about uninformed voters? Fat chance. Heritage just wants more Republican voters or, more to the point, fewer Democratic voters.

And that's what this voter fraud stuff is all about. Because the folks at right-wing think tanks know that there are a lot of poor Democratic voters without any "driver’s license, passport, or other approved identifier." Pass a voter ID law, and you'll knock millions of Democrats off the rolls.

Even more importantly, those right-wing folks know that Democratic voter registration drives play a big roll in poor urban communities, and the more obstacles they can put in the way of those do-gooding volunteers by making it harder for voters to get registered and stay registered, the fewer poor blacks and Latinos will vote.

This is also about improving voter's participation and knowledge with the goal that they will be invested as well as improving security of our voter registration lists.

If you think the status quo is working just fine, then this post wouldn't be to your liking.  If you think our electoral processes needs improving to produce better results, then hopefully you will put forth some of your ideas.  As I stated in post:

C’mon, if you have a better way (and I’m sure most do) to improve our current broken electoral process, please share.  

 

If I had a better idea for educating voters, I assure you that I'd be sharing it. But that does not mean that I should refrain from criticizing a terrible proposal that will only make things worse. It will not solve the problem of disengaged and uneducated voters. It will just disenfranchise the poorest of them.

I don't believe that requiring people to re-register every four years would disenfranchise the poor or any.  The registrations would be same place they vote.  There could be volunteers for transportation, the same as is available for voting.

How would this disenfranchise the poor or any?  

Mandatory Voter ID Disenfranchises Poor, Students, Elderly
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/the-daily-nebraskan/problems-with-voter-id...

How Voter ID Laws Are Being Used to Disenfranchise Minorities and the Poor
http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/03/how-voter-id-laws-ar...

New Voter-ID Laws Target Women
http://prospect.org/article/new-voter-id-laws-target-women

Voter ID Bills Bad News For Women Voters
http://www.care2.com/causes/voter-id-bills-bad-news-for-women-voters.html

As Many As 5 Million Voters Disenfranchised By Voter ID Laws
http://crooksandliars.com/karoli/many-5-million-voters-disenfranchised-v...

Critics Say Amended Voter ID Bill Still Disenfranchises Poor, Minorities, Seniors
http://blogs.philadelphiaweekly.com/phillynow/2011/12/13/critics-say-ame...

A few anecdotes don't prove nuttin', I'm jest saying...

Genghis, Thanks for the links.

It appears that the true obstacles being referenced are with some individual state's flawed registration processes. Ideally, there would be a revamping and improvement that would encompass uniform compliance issues that all states would need to adhere to eradicate these obstacles. Is this something that the citizenry across the nation would support, view as an improvement?

(Remember, this whole concept in blog is just a hypothetical, with the goal to promote exchange of ideas to improve system.)

With the renewal process, all would already be registered voters. As far as I know, states already do issue voter registration cards of some sort to all these voters. The only change would be taking their picture and the four year renewal.

What most seem to be overlooking, is the negative impact that flawed registrations have on the local and state levels. i.e. Our voting rules state that you must be a resident, with intent to reside here on a permanent basis. We have many who are only here seasonally, temporarily residing in employee or other short term housing, that register to vote here. They have no 'ties' here nor interest in permanent residency, yet their votes deliver long term influence and impact the actual residents locally and statewide. Some of us have attempted to cull our registration listings and did discover that many do 'enjoy' dual registrations without consequences. Our state is certainly not the only one whose oversight is, at best, haphazard. It is also cumbersome for citizens to do what is needed to ascertain the dual registrations. (The state election board was notified.)

In 2008 national election, we did discover some voters voting here via absentee ballots and in person in other state where they do have permanent residences.

"What most seem to be overlooking, is the negative impact that flawed registrations have on the local and state levels. ...We have many who are only here seasonally, temporarily residing in employee or other short term housing, that register to vote here."

​Do you have any actual statistics for how big this problem is?

​Vs. the documented big problem making minorities show i.d. to vote would cause?

​If you say state oversight is haphazard, can state oversight be improved without impinging on individual freedoms?

Think about from the point of view of a community organizer in a poor neighborhood. You've already got your job cut out for you just trying to get non-registered voters to register. Now you have to also get all the registered voters to re-register.

Invariably, many of those people will fail to so and will discover on election day that they can't vote. They will be disproportionately poor, old, black, Latino, and female. Minorities will lose out big time, and so will Democrats.

So what exactly is "the negative impact that flawed registrations have on the local and state levels"? How many people vote in locations where they don't live? Why is this problem so terrible that we need to disenfranchise the poor to fix it? 

Before we get mired in this hypothetical scenario again, instead of joining together to attempt to come up with some additional positive actions to improve the 'state' of our democratic processes, I understand the concerns put forth and again, as I stated:

Most, I’m sure, will find fault with the proposal offered here that only addresses part of the problem. I’m also certain that some have even better viable solutions. Hopefully those who negate and critique will submit feasible and positive alternatives. 

As to your query regarding impact on local/state elections - When non-residents (as defined by state and local codes/laws not eligible) are able to register and vote (often by absentee ballot - many are also registered in their 'real' home locale too), their votes can be responsible for deciding many local council/assembly members/Mayors as well as state legislators and ballot measures.

These 'voters' are not residents, but the real residents are left to suffer the consequences of their actions.  I know this is true here and many other places.  I have spent literally hundreds of hours researching, networking with other locale/state voters and discovered this is more widespread than most realize.  Just because, perhaps, it isn't happening where you and others reside to any notable degree, doesn't mean it isn't a serious matter elsewhere.

It's a cumbersome and difficult task for citizens to take on, especially when there is little support from election officials.  It took me a year to get the Lt. Gov. to come here and stop illegal voter registration 'picnics' that most knew about but few were willing to do what was necessary to stop it.  

If you've spent hundreds of hours, you should be able to give a quantitative range of how big the problem is.

The "hypothetical" mentioned is not hypothetical - it's a real impediment to voter registration, just to maintain the poor on voting roles.

At the same time, I just have trouble believing there's a raft of migrant workers coming in to vote to alter city council positions.

There have been debates about whether students should vote in their college town, and these students do get organized enough and pay attention enough to affect local positions.

If you would describe in some detail (with rough number estimates) what you mean by "illegal voter registration picnics", it might be easier to grasp your point.

And even in that case, it seems a cross-check for temporary workers might be simpler than an ID law that wouldn't stop dual-registered voters from voting.

You are aware that Republicans have made FUD over voting fraud one of their main strategies for swaying elections, right? And that they regularly blow up possibilities into a plague - as I noted, Hans von Spakovsky is their go-to guy on this.

Percales,

They were advising seasonal workers to use non valid addresses and 'lie' about their intent to become residents here among other things.

I obtained voters list and went name by name, with the help of half a dozen others here  - we culled the lists down to those who registered in last three years, those we discovered were no longer here and/or not actual residents, we researched where they actually lived and contacted their state's election boards.  Many you had to write letters to obtain pertinent info and if they were still registered and voting there.

We discovered that over 10% were unlawfully registered.  

FYI, seasonal workers are not migrant workers, but tourism industry, etc.  Some were college students who lost their state tuition discount because they claimed to be residents here instead of their actual home state.

This took quite a bit of time and effort.  Did ongoing research for about three years and each year, in new registrants, we found some fraud.

And what were they getting out of this? Who cares about voting that much? Who was behind this? Obviously, registering non-eligible people to vote is illegal, and the problem with most accusations is that on a case-by-case basis, voter fraud is horribly inefficient - why bother?

If they're doing it in bulk, yes, it should be enforced. What was the problem with that?

And even if they were "unlawfully registered", were they actually voting? (which would be illegal)

Typically, it's hard to get college students out to vote - much less get them to register in multiple states (even if they do, their chance of showing up to vote is slim, and even then, their knowledge of down-ticket candidates is minimimal). How so successful?

Peracles,

Yes, majority voted.

These were, for most part, temp employees who were adhering to certain employer's agenda for most part.  All sorts of incentives to participate.  They knew nothing about local/state candidates and issues, just either filled out absentee ballots per another or were told how to fill out ballots when voting.  In these instances, this had little to do with National elections most years, all about state and local annual elections usually.

 

In this case, it's straightforward voter fraud, and can be pursued through existing laws.

That one law isn't enforced doesn't justify creating a whole big alternate structure that's no more effective, and much more heinous.

PP - How do we improve the process?

Prioritize which voting abuse/disenfranchisement is most rampant, problematic

figure out if existing laws cover or need new laws,

enforce law, prosecute/sue

manage programs for voter enfranchisement

Adding to this... and I know this has come up elsewhere in the thread... individual voter fraud (me voting, say, in both New York and Maine) is a pretty silly way to try and rig a national election.  What's two times, "my vote doesn't matter?"  One person voting multiple times would only have an effect in very small, hyper-local races.  In a case like the, the voter would have to perpetuate a very difficult fraud by voting multiple times, in the same location, in a small community.  For ethical reasons, I wouldn't pull the lever twice for Obama, if given the opportunity.  But it'd make no difference if I did.

Destor, FYI

According to Wiki:

On November 26, 2000 the state canvassing board certified Bush the winner of Florida's electors by 537 votes.

Just sayin', (hypothesis) it doesn't take all that many 'duplicates' to impact elections.

You've got to be fucking kidding.

The Florida Central Voter File was an internal list of legally eligible voters used by the US Florida Department of State Division of Elections to monitor the official voter lists maintained by the 67 county governments in the State of Florida between 1998 and January 1, 2006. The exclusion of eligible voters from the file was a central part of the controversy surrounding the US presidential elections in 2000, which hinged on results in Florida. ....

On 17 April 2001, James Lee testified, before the McKinney panel, that the state had given DBT the directive to add to the purge list people who matched at least 90% of a last name. DBT objected, knowing that this would produce a huge number of false positives (non-felons).[7]

Lee went on saying that the state then ordered DBT to shift to an even lower threshold of 80% match, allowing also names to be reversed (thus a person named Thomas Clarence could be taken to be the same as Clarence Thomas). Besides this, middle initials were skipped, Jr. and Sr. suffixes dropped, and some nicknames and aliases were added to puff up the list....

Between May 1999 and Election Day 2000, two Florida secretaries of state, Sandra Mortham and Katherine Harris, distributed the scrub lists produced by the cleansing process to counties and ordered the 57,700 people identified as "ex-felons" to be removed from voter rolls. Together the lists comprised nearly 1% of Florida's electorate and nearly 3% of its African-American voters...

Nearly 3,000 out-of-state ex-felons with voting rights restored, as well as voters linked to felonies in states which do not remove felons from voting rolls or that automatically restore voting rights, were included on the list. ... 
Janet Keels...ordered inclusion of any felon who did not have a written order of clemency, even from these states, wrongly placing 996 voters on the felon list...

Elsewhere:

 On a statewide basis, while African Americans comprised about 11% of all voters in Florida in the November 2000 presidential election, African Americans cast about 54% of the ballots that were rejected in the election. ....

...Curtis Gans, director of the Committee for the Study of the American Electorate, testified, “In this election, thousands of people, not only in Florida, but in other places, who registered at motor voter places, motor vehicle license bureaus, and in social service agencies were not on the rolls when they came to vote.”

 

[T]here were people who had registered to vote through motor voter and somehow their registration was not transmitted to the supervisor of elections office. I saw that with married couples in my own precinct. One person would be registered to vote, the other person would not. The person who was not registered to vote couldn’t vote unless they physically went to the supervisor of elections office and picked up a piece of paper, which they then brought back to me, because we couldn’t reach them on the telephone.[36]

Congresswoman Corrine Brown also noted the failure of proper processing of motor voter registration, stating that “thousands of people went and got their driver’s license, but to this date they did not . . . receive their voter card.”[37]

And from the governor:

 

At the Tallahassee hearing, Alvin Peters, an attorney from Panama City, testified that Governor Bush sent out a letter encouraging selected citizens to vote by mail. Mr. Peters claimed that this “vote by mail letter” offered selected citizens the opportunity to vote by mail, which is not allowed in Florida. He further pointed out the letter had the seal of the state of Florida and was signed by Governor Bush.[54]

Governor Bush disagreed with the above characterization of the letter referred to by Mr. Peters. He indicated to the Commission that the letter did not bear the current state seal, but rather the state seal as it first appeared in 1868.[55]

Following Mr. Peters’ testimony and presentation of his supporting documents, Moya Burgess responded with outrage. She explained, “It makes me sick to think that . . . our governor basically sent out an infomercial to his party.”[56] She added that she is registered with “the other party” and she never received any information from the governor. In Ms. Burgess’ opinion, this letter should have been addressed to all voters.

So that's a few more than 537 voters - say 100,000?

 

Newspapers' recount shows Bush prevailed

By Dennis Cauchon, USA TODAY

George W. Bush would have won a hand count of Florida's disputed ballots if the standard advocated by Al Gore had been used, the first full study of the ballots reveals. Bush would have won by 1,665 votes — more than triple his official 537-vote margin — if every dimple, hanging chad and mark on the ballots had been counted as votes, a USA TODAY/Miami Herald/Knight Ridder study shows. The study is the first comprehensive review of the 61,195 "undervote" ballots that were at the center of Florida's disputed presidential election.

 

That recount was for 3 counties, not statewide. And 1,665 is still less than 95,000, no?

And that doesn't count the thousands and thousands of voter registrations lost or rejected or illegally removed from the voter polls.

In 2000, there were 1.9 million uncounted ballots nationwide. "The U.S. Civil Rights Commission looked into the smelly pile of spoiled ballots and concluded that, of the 179,855 ballots invalidated by Florida officials, 53 percent were cast by black voters. In Florida, a black citizen was 10 times as likely to have a vote rejected as a white voter."

In 2002, ballot fixes in Florida resulted in near-0 uncounted ballots.

So do we need a national voter ID law, or smart people to design a ballot system, and a responsible legal system to uphold the law?

I understand during the tsunami that killed 300,000 in Indonesia, some people cut their feet, so they should institute a no-barefoot law to solve tsunami problems.

--------------------------

"A New York Times investigation earlier this year showed that 680 of the late- arriving ballots did not meet Florida's standards yet were still counted. The vast majority of those flawed ballots were accepted in counties that favored Mr. Bush, after an aggressive effort by Bush strategists to pressure officials to accept them.

A statistical analysis conducted for The Times determined that if all counties had followed state law in reviewing the absentee ballots, Mr. Gore would have picked up as many as 290 additional votes, enough to tip the election in Mr. Gore's favor in some of the situations studied in the statewide ballot review.

But Mr. Gore chose not to challenge these ballots because many were from members of the military overseas, and Mr. Gore did not want to be accused of seeking to invalidate votes of men and women in uniform."

Aunt Sam appears to be mostly focusing on local elections, however, where one vote does matter. I wonder how many of those people registered in multiple localities actually vote in more than one of them. Chances are, they're registered in multiple localities because of a mistake in the process (something that should be fixed), and not because they're trying to commit fraud. That's pure speculation, of course.

VA - Well, aside from the fact that about half are 'young' and perhaps are unaware it's fraud, my research shows that many do so with intent.  Phony residential addresses, etc.

Do you know if they're actually voting in more than one locality, or are just registered in more than one locality? Based on my experiences with the public school system, I suspect that the registering might be done with an intent to get their kids into a better school, and not with the intent to vote in more than one locality.

The school zone fudging is a likely explanation for most double registrations. I just find it hard to believe that many individuals would think there was any chance that their voting twice would flip an election from the rightful winner. Of whatever that tiny number amounted to, how many would take the chance? It is even less likely that a group of the size needed to flip an election would conspire to do so by voting twice. Every illegal vote, especially in a close election which might be scrutinized, would increase the chance of all involved getting caught.

VA - In larger districts where there are thousands of votes cast, it would be virtually impossible without hours and hours of effort to actually review individual voters.

In our town, sad to say, there is literally no oversight.  The chair of the election board and I were friendly until I queried if, per statute, they were verifying return addresses on absentee ballots to be valid and she told me, 'no, it's too much work'.  

Until people get very involved in the processes of elections, it's difficult for them to really 'get' just how flawed the system truly is in many places.  It's always interesting how many declare 'I know' about it without ever actually getting their 'hands dirty' and diving into the polluted pool.

VA - We have one school district, one school.  Few of the 'double dippers' have kids here.

Ideally, there would be a revamping and improvement that would encompass uniform compliance issues that all states would need to adhere to eradicate these obstacles. Is this something that the citizenry across the nation would support, view as an improvement?

No, a very large percentage of the citizenry of this country support the flaws deliberately put into the voting laws. That portion call themselves 'Republicans'. It was their party which deliberately put flaws into the system to cut down on the voter participation of certain demographics. They want an unfair voter registration scheme. Isn't that obvious?

To be fair, I think that the history of the last few years shows that Democrats would be happy if their leadership was able to identify an equivalent demographic that supported the Republican Party and was able to institute laws and regulations which cut down on that groups partition. Screw 'fair' it's all about winning. I base that statement on the obvious embrace and furtherance of the worst Bush administration policies by Obama's administration and the very little pushback by Democrats because now it is their guy doing it.

LuLu,

    Any true voter reform has to be non partisan to have any merit.  I share your frustration. It's a mess and harms our democracy.

On all taxation  bills, let the voters go to their local bank and enter their pin number.

Open the screen  (Taxation)  "What would you like to do with your money. What programs should WE pay for.  

Majority rule 

Yeah or neigh on expenditures.

If Alaska wants a "Bridge to nowhere" let Alaskans pay for it  

Let Alaskans go to their banks;  Vote on their own taxation issues  

It's our money, its our own blood sweat and tears that was expended. 

We don't need no stinkin middleman, spending our hard earned money, So representative so and so can erect monuments to glorify their names.

Give direct representation on matters of life and death.

We dont need no Senators sending us to war, while their loved ones stay home   

Take back the power of the purse, from the House of representatives 

In the days of lengthy travel to DC we granted representatives, to vote in our behalf 

We now live in the digital age;  why do we need representatives with their own agenda ; each member of society can represent himself. 

The power belongs to the governed and it's obvious the House has become corrupted.  

House members are really only interested in what enriches them; instead of WE 

The abuse has been noted.  We the People want to take back the power we entrusted to the House; a House that abused the trust.  No more backroom deals.

I kinda like the idea of a voter participation card with PIN to deliver our votes on issues to our Congress.

Actually, I agree with quite a bit of your stance.

Appreciate.

If we as citizens deserve the governance that happens to us, it is because the right of universal suffrage has given that responsibility to us as a whole. There is an element to becoming a society that governs itself that cannot be produced or reproduced by having a polity that demands that the said element exist. We, as citizens, have in our power, the means to nurture and expand that element. But we cannot make a set of rules that will generate that result by necessity.

When thinking about democracy as a form of life, one particular idea of Ivan Illich is worth keeping in mind: "Freedom is being able to change where you live as you see fit." By this measure, what is involved with being a community that governs itself has a say about how things are made and exchanged, how children are educated, and how justice happens. That first item is a matter that "we" as people don't feel like we have much power over. I submit that this condition is more of a problem than having a lot of voters who had the misfortune of being marginally educated in our schools.

Hi Moat -

... I submit that this condition is more of a problem than having a lot of voters who had the misfortune of being marginally educated in our schools.

The concept has nothing to do with those 'marginally educated'.  Re-registering is to validate the voter's rolls.

Do you have any thoughts as to how we can better build factual awareness in voters?  The goal is to help, not hinder, our voters make informed decisions and become more invested in our government's actions.

On a contentious note, your point #11 does involve how educated the voter is or not and the language of privilege vs. rights that you employ goes well beyond making sure the voter rolls are up to date.

Your challenge to help voters make more informed decisions is a worthy one. I will think about it. But the point I was trying to make is that the general apathy I see everyday in regards to the political process is an incredible consensus that it changes nothing of consequence. While being a form of despair, it is also a weird sort of confidence that things take care of themselves that is completely unwarranted.

There are plenty of instances when people mobilized to vote for or against something because they realized how directly the vote would effect their fortunes. On the other hand, you have examples like Proposition 13 in California where people voted not to be taxed for infrastructure and education unless approved by a direct mandate. What could be more democratic?  Unfortunately, education and infrastructure are going to hell in a hand basket in that state. What does "being informed" mean in a situation like that? The people who chose to impoverish their communities didn't think that is what they voted for. But that is exactly what they did.

 

Moat,

Thanks for response.

Regarding your statement:

'.....your point #11 does involve how educated the voter is or not and the language of privilege vs. rights that you employ goes well beyond making sure the voter rolls are up to date.'

I stated:

  1. Every renewal applicant will be given a ‘voters tutorial handbook’, with current information about recent governmental actions.  At time of renewal will have to take and pass a test based on information delivered in tutorial.  They can take the test as many times as needed.

This would be much like those who apply for citizenship receive and nothing to do with prior 'education' experiences.

I also closed with:

C’mon, if you have a better way (and I’m sure most do) to improve our current broken electoral process, please share. 

This post was mainly created to start a discussion, brain storming to achieve some ideas about what we can do to improve our current system.  I was hoping for some resources and positive ideas, which there are some.  

And I did address the apathy, which is another reason to come together and attempt to come up with thoughts to get voters invested and interested. A strictly non-partisan concept.

If I had to pass a test in order to vote, I would stop doing it. It is my right, not a privilege granted to me like a driver's license or a fishing permit. If voting becomes like those things, I will not do it anymore. I would not recognize the government as a legitimate authority any longer. I will not reapply for citizenship in my own country that gave it to me at my birth.

If I become a felon, I will lose the right to vote along with the right to go where I please if I have been sentenced to prison. These consequences are justified by a logic of parity; if one side breaks the social contract, the other side will too. Any circumstance that would suspend a right should be done in that spirit; You left us, we didn't leave you.

Now I have many times met people who went through 12 years of education knowing less about our polity than people cramming for a citizenship test. One positive suggestion I would make is to make that circumstance less common by any means necessary. Any means, that is, except making that sort of ignorance equivalent to committing a serious crime.

Moat 

Now I have many times met people who went through 12 years of education knowing less about our polity than people cramming for a citizenship test. One positive suggestion I would make is to make that circumstance less common by any means necessary. Any means, that is, except making that sort of ignorance equivalent to committing a serious crime.

That's a conundrum for sure.  There's been some really good ideas about creating websites to help voters (non-partisan) and perhaps to include the info you cited would be a step in the right direction.  What do you think?

1. There is no evidence what-so-ever there is significant electoral fraud in the United States.

2. I oppose any test for voters, that smacks of a modern style Jim Crow used to prohibit voting.

3. People are basically smart about the world, you don't have to know  how the government works to vote

4. You don't need to be politically engaged to vote

5. All you need to be is  an American

6. Voter rolls lag in catching up with changes in data (deaths, change of addresses, etc).  i.e. changes cannot be made in real time

7. The last instance of massive voter fraud in the United States was in South Carolina's gubernatorial election in 1876.

8. Voting per capita has continued to decline since the 1930's. Back then around 60% of the population voted, currently 40% of eligible voters vote with consistency.

9. Restricting voting, restricts democracy. It's messy, but just prosecute people who are caught committing fraud, no need to penalize everyone for a few bad apples.

tmac,

I think voter fraud is alive and well in some locales, but because it's seldom really investigated, it's difficult to ascertain extent. I know in this state the voter's lists are a mess.  From what I've read this is more prevalent in states that have a lot of 'back and forth', such as Florida, Arizona and others with high seasonal employment industries and/or 'snow bunnies'.

I just don't agree that 'People are basically smart about the world' or just our country.  I talk to people from all over the nation who come here and that's not my experience.   Many are very informed, but more are not.

While it's true that 'You don't need to be politically engaged to vote', I do believe it would be better if the voters had some 'non-partisan political' knowledge before casting their ballots.

As I stated above to Genghis:

I don't believe that requiring people to re-register every four years would disenfranchise the poor or any. The registrations would be same place they vote. There could be volunteers for transportation, the same as is available for voting.

How would this disenfranchise the poor or any?

tmac, Do you believe that our electoral processes are as good as they need to be to obtain the best result? 

This is nonsense and it´s been disproved time and again. 

There is very little voter fraud from people voting for others. If there´s fraud, it´s much easier to do digitally in the machines themselves, switching a tally of 10,000 votes at a time.

You´re falling into the Hans von Spakovsky trap. The ´solutions´ are 10x worse than any problem we have.

Note that these purgings of voter lists is exactly why Gore "lost" in Florida. (not the appearance of a minor 3rd party candidate)

It seems that you are trying to encourage greater voter participation and awareness, which is a worthy goal. But I wonder how to decide what is an important question for the test. Asking about dry facts is uncontroversial, like what does CISPA stand for, but is knowledge of dry facts of primary importance to the act of voting? I would think that interpretations are more important, but such questions would be almost impossible to grade without a bias.

Donal,

    I got the idea when some of us were talking during the last election and we realized that most voters don't even have the same knowledge as those who take the citizenship test.  Just basic US facts.  I then talked to one who had become a citizen, although had been here for several years (legally), and she said what she studied really motivated her to 'vote with knowledge'.  

    I was hoping that there could be some discussion on how to garner better electoral processes and there have been some good ideas. 

    Are you satisfied with our electoral processes and believe they are as good as possible?

You're trying to make the vote a reward for learning, instead of a right. As of now, a fulfilling career, or at least getting a decent job is (supposed to be) the reward for learning, and still some people refuse to apply themselves. So I think that an unintended effect of your test would be to reduce the electorate to those who were motivated and better-educated, and to create an underclass of disenfranchised voters—which isn't that different than what we have now.

No, I'm not satisfied with electoral processes. I'm not satisfied with my time in the 1500, either, but I'm not resorting to liposuction to get a bit faster.

"still some people refuse to apply themselves" - and of course some people don't have the time, money or opportunity - for example working 2 jobs with kids. Should they apologize for not spending enough time on HuffPost or Salon or Politico, to get their voting privileges restored? Will there be a civics test for me to know that taking mass contributions from energy companies will sway my congressperson's vote at my detriment? Does a poor person need training to understand when Paul Ryan says "medicare and social security reform" he means "let's make the system useless within 20 years"?

​Seems that the only education required, to paraphrase a friend, is "which lever do I pull to vote, and how do you spell 'motherfucker'?"  **

[**originally, "Who do I see to quit...?"]

I read your post three times, Sam, failing each time to grasp what I was missing. I totally agreed with your description of an unmotivated, fickle, uninformed and ignorant electorate. So I was puzzled that your proposed solution consisted solely of tightening up voter registration -- a totally marginal issue. You should have simply prefaced your proposal with a sentence to the effect: "So this is how we disenfranchise the stupid and the ignorant."

Because that is precisely what you meant, no? Why not go back to the era when only the propertied (i.e., the rich) had the franchise? Because your aim is exactly the same as it was back then: restrict the vote to the elite who are by nature and upbringing qualified to rule. 

You propose to improve democracy by restricting the franchise, Sam. Those disenfranchised would overwhelmingly consist of minorities and the poor. Even this Supreme Court would have a problem finding that constitutional. I find it at the very least a repulsive idea.

"So this is how we disenfranchise the stupid and the ignorant."

Please explain how renewing registration disenfranchises anyone.  I honestly do not understand this premise.

You also wrote:

 "I was puzzled that your proposed solution consisted solely of tightening up voter registration -- a totally marginal issue."

Also, within the body of the post is:

Most, I’m sure, will find fault with the proposal offered here that only addresses part of the problem.  I’m also certain that some have even better viable solutions.  Hopefully those who negate and critique will submit feasible and positive alternatives. 

And the post closes with:

C’mon, if you have a better way (and I’m sure most do) to improve our current broken electoral process, please share.  

If we are to improve the current system, a positive exchange of ideas, which some have proffered, is beneficial.  Simply attacking without putting forth either a full explanation of your objection and a better way is not productive. 

Count me in with Genghis, acanuck, PeraclesPlease, et al. as being concerned that your proposal would effectively reduce the number of poor people on the voting rolls. Obviously, that is not your intent.

So, what would be my suggestions?

  1. Increase funding to PBS and NPR, and give them a charter to report on political news in the most unbiased form possible. Perhaps we could set up a panel, composed of a variety of political viewpoints that could raise objections when bias is suspected. Members of that panel, however, would have to back up their objections with facts.
  2. Create a single government web-site where candidates at every level (local to national) can post their CVs and proposals. Make it a crime to put false information on that web-site. Have it so you can enter your zip code and see all of the candidates you will be able to vote for in the upcoming elections.
  3. Switch to some type of alternate voting system.
  4. Require electoral districts within a state to adhere to perimeter/area ratios of no more than 4•a, where a is the size of the smallest distance across the district through its geometric center.
  5. Have states distribute electoral college votes proportionately.

Verified, Thank you, these are some good ideas.

Last year, in a conversation with some Australians, they were explaining their electoral processes, which are quite a bit different than ours and it sounded akin to the alternative voting system you noted.  I need to research their process, as they and others I spoke to from there seemed satisfied with the results.

I think all you put forth has merit.  I would be in favor of abolishing the electoral college system in favor of populace majority vote only.

I watch PBS news and consider it the best factual reporting, without bias and TG no pundits or opining.

Believe the web-site concept is not only doable without much fuss, but would deliver benefits to all voters.  Something like this, IMO, is sorely needed.

I'm still waiting for someone to deliver specifics on how renewing voter's registration would disenfranchise the poor or any.

Again, appreciate your input.

Funny, the solution for candidates who don´t keep their promises in office is for the public to be more educated.

Who didn´t know tons about Obama, Hillary, McCain last election cycle? What did we miss out on re Sarah Palin?

And who are the school ma´arms who will eddycate us American politics? The same ones who can´t inform us what´s happening in our Gulag Guantanamo, who hide any government actions they can behind state secrets acts?

How about a clearing house for information, that makes available concise and accurate summations of important issues, government actions and candidate positions?

I´ve met plenty of uneducated people who could tell when someone´s an asshole without some lesson. Knowing who´s funding the asshole would be useful info though.

Media and lack of real, accurate info is still a problem even in the internet days. Information overload turns politics into even more of a circus - what kind of irrelevant detail will hit the front page today? Do we really understand Paul Ryan´s budget proposals vs. Obama´s, or are we going to get caught up in Rush´s insult of a co-ed or the gratuitous celebration of bin Laden´s death?

As for screening voters, that´s been tried with Jim Crow laws. For a black segment with 3 million people under control of some part of America´s legal system - prison, jail, parole... many over silly pot busts... expecting them to trust government and go in for more scrutiny, I.D. checks and internet parading is just beyond belief.

 

Whats beyond belief, is that we live in the digital age and we still hand over OUR  power, to some Representative. 

A representative, who says one thing in order to get elected and when shown, how much money and power can be had, they can convince a stupid electorate that every decision was in the best interest of the constituents.

If you believe that; I have a bridge to sell you.

Take back "Our Power"; "one man one vote"  from the hands of representatives , and we make the Koch money, the insurance lobby, the pharmaceutical lobby, the oil lobby  irrelevant; they cant buy every ones vote. as it is now they only have to buy a few representatives.

Clean and pure elections, where the governed, after reviewing the issues, decides for themselves what are the costs and who really benefits. 

In the golden age, who ever controlled the gold, ruled.

The American experiment; We The People, should control the purse, not the few who have gathered the most gold . 

The electorate doesnt need a middleman who has to pander for money for campaigns, or god forbid, be bribed  

Self rule ..... Is that freedom? 

Seems to me you have taken this fact about your own locality:

In my district, about 20% of our voter’s registration listings are not valid voters.

and have convinced yourself it is a source of the nation's ills, and in this post are trying to argue that it's the source of the entire nation's ills.

This argument might fall on deaf ears to those who watched the 2000 presidential election debacle, where many of us learned how, er, shall we say different, Florida's voting system was from our own locales. And after listening to upteem comedians' jokes about how incompetent Florida's voting system was, many of would probably not be surprised to hear from you that the problem is still there. That said, many would probably also think it's a leap to say the rest of the country has the same problems and needs the registration reforms you think you need there.

You're making a generalization that your local government problem is the problem everywhere else. I suspect many informed voters elsewhere would not agree, and would think things like gerrymandering and campaign financing are the major problems corrupting our federal level government, and that voter registration and voter education is a teeny tiny nit in comparison. And that they are happy with the results of voting as to their local government.

You seem to be forgetting that the main current unhappiness about dysfunctional government is with who the people who vote have elected to the Congress in Washington D..C.., and not who they have elected to local governments.

I really don't see a lot of outrage about the latter outside of Wisconsin. And those outraged in Wisconsin seem to be trying to get more people to register to fight back against the influence of outside, national money. People like Scott Walker get elected when conservative talk radio junkies, who spend many hours a day "informing" themselves about politics, come out in force to vote with passion on issues that outside money has paid to have propagandized, while the low income,  the busy and overworked, and the non-political stay home, figuring it's too much of a hassle to register and get out and vote. And you're going to solve this by making it harder to vote?

Back to the national level.  I just don't see much sense in extrapolating this problem in your locale to a national level. Rather, the much bigger problem in many other locales is that it's a bureaucratic pain in the butt to register and vote, and that's why many people don't bother to do so.

Actually ,your post gave me an idea just the opposite of yours. If someone really wanted to help reform out federal government through voting processes, a smart protest action that I think might really put a bee in that whole bonnet is for a mass movement of many people to register and vote in more than one Congressional district, to screw up their goddamn gerrymandering that has so royally helped fuck up our Congress (and fucked up many a state legislature as well.) It's a rigged system to give better chances to deliver certain outcomes, and I think your suggestions would just make the rigmasters tools more powerful. They depend upon those who vote regular as rain and on the voting records. They don't want new voters, screws up the demographics. As far as I am concerned, it would be good to let those who take the trouble to vote (so few these days, in midterms, especially) bounce around and vote where they like, have some of those guys and gals who think they have crafted a perfect district for themselves learn a lesson or two about actually serving all the people and not just pandering to certain narrow demographic interests that they have basically created themselves with redistricting.

You're making a generalization that your local government problem is the problem everywhere else.

As I stated to another here, I networked with many across the nation, including Florida, Washington, Carolinas, and more.  This is not a generalization without facts and merit.  The states and local areas where abuse is most prevalent are those where there are large seasonal industries which relies on 'imported' workers who actually are residents of other states.  And as I also stated, it's impossible to really know the extent until one delves into a voter's list and actually investigates.  Takes an inordinate amount of time and effort.  But, that's the only way to know.

At the time, North Carolina was a bit better as they posted their voter's registration including activity on the net.  That's how I initially discovered some dual registrants and yes, voting in two places as documented.  I think it's a great benefit for states that do this.

As to your last paragraph, hopefully you were simply being sardonic. 

For 15 years, Canada and each of its provinces and territories have had permanent voter lists, updated continuously between elections. Address changes are collated from tax returns, driver's permits, govt. departments. No registration required, and it eliminates the problem you think is so important. As soon as an election is called, I receive a card in the mail telling me precisely where and when I can vote. Non-citizens or non-residents don't. Amazingly efficient, virtually error-free. So registration errors can be eliminated, if politicians want to. Turnout (and voter engagement, in my opinion) are higher here than in the U.S.

The reason you are getting so much negative pushback, Sam, is that you are misstating the nature of the problem. American democracy is indeed deficient, as you outline at the start of your post. But the solution cannot lie in tweaking the voting system, much less the voter-registration system. The problem is not caused by the electoral process, it's the political process. Politicians have engineered the system to malfunction the way it does.

Why do Americans even have to register to vote, when Canadians don't? It's because U.S. political parties control the system, and they manipulate it for partisan purposes. Why, in order to exercise their constitutional right to vote, should citizens be asked by the govt. -- the government! -- which party they belong to? WTF!

And why are U.S. elections run by partisan officials? In Canada and each province, that's done by independent chief returning officers and their non-partisan staffs, who can disqualify candidates who break the rules. And if a ruling is contested in court, it's decided by a non-partisan, non-elected judge.

Get where I'm going with this? It's NOT to say my system is better than yours. It's to suggest that flaws in the U.S. system are built in, and they are intentionally built in. The democratic process has been corrupted by politicization. And now that it's occurred to the maximum degree, everybody who is in office has zero interest in reversing the trend.

Money is at the heart of the disease. Canadian elections take precisely 36 days, and neither corporations nor labor unions can contribute a cent to any campaign. No PACs, much less Super PACs!  Even if parties and candidates could collect vast amounts of money, there wouldn't be enough time to spend it.

By contrast, U.S. legislators spend roughly half their time in office running for re-election (and holding fundraisers for their re-election bids). Even before Citizens United, it was clear to everyone what a corrupting influence money was on U.S. politics. And now ...

Yes, there is a problem with an electorate that is disengaged from the political process and apathetic about voters' ability to change anything. But those people are right! Congress and the Supreme Court have turned back the clock on even the most modest electoral reforms of the past. That is where the country's democratic deficit originates. At the top. Remember the euphoria around Obama's pledge of hope and change: "Yes, we can." Apparently we could, but those running the show didn't really want to.

 

 

Why, in order to exercise their constitutional right to vote, should citizens be asked by the govt. -- the government! -- which party they belong to? WTF!

Well said!.....George Washington, James Monroe and others like them have turned over in their graves on this so many times, their skeletons are falling to pieces.wink

It's not a popular thought on political junkie blogs like this, though, where two-sided team play is teh groove. When I have brought up  my own loathing not just of citizens being requested to declare belonging to one of two political parties when they want to vote, but of being expected to "support" politicians of one of two parties and "support" one of two political parties with not just blog posts but also actual money and volunteer work, I have gotten a lot of flack.

I don't get the flack, really I don't. It's not like the whole question about this didn't help lead to things like our Civil War. What I don't get is smart educated people liking that game. We don't have to be as simplistically partisan like we are now, really we don't; a lot of our founders and early presidents didn't want that, and the ever growing number of Americans who register as Independents or regularly change affiliation seem to agree.

No time to write a response, and I don't think anything I could say would improve upon what you have written here, anyway. Absolutely. Fucking. Brilliant!

Thanks for this most profound analysis, acanuck. You nailed it.

There's no shortage of those who are able to critique, condemn and identify the problems, what we need is for We, The People, to actually do something about it.

Again, what was proffered was a hypothesis, hoping to encourage positive discourse and ideas that could actually be implemented and assist in enabling the citizenry in improving the process.  'Changing negative reaction into positive action'. 

It's understood the politicos are not going to make positive changes unless we come together and make it happen.  

We have a phrase in the computer world for such systems.

 

Functions as designed.

Aunt Sam identifies the problem we face as too many stupid voters.  I identify the problem as too many Republican voters.  It seems to me that Aunt Sam's "solution" will result in a higher percentage of Republican voters and ergo is no solution at all but will merely exacerbate an already nearly intolerable situation.  One has to wonder whether Aunt Sam really wants to make things better for all Americans or only for the tiny minority with tens of millions of dollars who don't care about living on an ecologically sustainable planet.  Given the scorn that Aunt Sam demonstrates in this article for 10s of millions of American voters, it does seem clear that his heart is not with the struggling masses but rather with the well-heeled and high-born.

Aunt Sam doesn't go far enough. We could start by arresting that person she had hearsay evidence on for voting twice. Teach 'em a lesson.

Then, we need to ensure that ALL voting stations have 10 hour long lines, not just ones in minority or student populated districts. That will cut down on double voting as no one will have the time to vote twice, and will separate out the voters who really want to participate in democracy. To ensure long lines, registration will be done yearly, by volunteers with no experience, professional help or working computers.

Voters on line will be required to read pamphlets on America and our major issues, take, AND PASS, the immigration exam on US history and government before casting a ballot, that being the test that all Mexicans/etc take to gain US citizenship. If they fail, they can retake, but must go to the rear of the line. The lines will close nationwide at the same local time of 6PM, NO EMPLOYER will be allowed to pay wages for lost time voting, at least for everyone on hourly wages, so they appreciate that their vote is 'worth it', and that they vote for the right candidate. Those whose salary is capital gains, or dividends not included in the docking of pay, as they don't punch time clocks anyway.

Enfranchisement of fetuses to vote might be considered as a test case in some states, as long as a way to determine their vote can be accomplished, perhaps with ultrasound wands deployed in the privacy of the voting booth.  This would serve the dual purpose of encouraging participation by the unborn in our democracy, and providing precedent to ensure fetal personhood.

So many good thoughts to ponder.

I think it is a waste of time to consider anything other than taking back our power of the purse, from representation government.

Our forefathers spelled it out concerning the right of the Federal government to tax. 

Some of our forefathers knew how corruption could overtake Democracy. They observed how the Crown bestowed special privileges to certain groups.  ie lobbyists, as bedfellows with those in Power, both enriching one another at the expense of burdened worker. 

Most of the posts on this blog, look for a way to get voter participation, a misguided venture.

Those in power dont give a rats about the peasant class. 

Take back the power, not entrusted to the government; eliminate the scoundrels who come before the king and all of his ministers, seeking special privilege (tax exemptions or subsidies, paid for bytaxes paid by the peasant class)

How long, before we really get to tax the millionaires? Hows that working out ......A hopeless dream?

Limit the Federal graft. Take control of the beast and its one sided benevolence.

Let the States and local government face the electorate, as designed by our forefathers.

Let the peoples government, State government answer for their actions, when they exact taxes from the governed;  not hundred of miles away, but in the midst of the governed.  

The Federal government is corrupt because we allowed them, to abuse the power of the purse. 

No amount of tinkering around, will change the deeply entrenced corruption.

Who wants to drink the koolaid (tea) offered by the Crown?

We do have an alternative, TAKE BACK the power our forefathers gave us.

Limit the Federal government that devours freedom, just as our forefathers warned.  

 

Theodore Roosevelt was teaching by precept and example that men owed something at all times, whether in peace or in war, for the privilege of citizenship and that the burden rested equally on rich and poor. He was saying that, no matter what conditions existed, the blame lay no more heavily on the politician and his machine controlling city, State, or nation, than on the shoulders of the average citizen who concerned himself so little with his government that he allowed men to stay in power in spite of his dissatisfaction because he was too indifferent to exert himself to get better men in office.

Thought you might appreciate some high-powered support for your argument. 

Emma,

This is so on point in discussions about We, The People's participation and responsibilities of our governance.  Much Appreciated.

I think that the following statement in my post has been validated:

Yet, when any warn We, The People, that we need to put forth more of an effort to protect and sustain the integrity and value of our democracy, this is met with howls of outrage. 

The post is merely a hypothetical.  I was hoping more would proffer some more viable, productive and credible concepts. Without putting forth some example of a positive action that will improve the status quo, it just seems to add to the problem, not the solution. 

I believe the website process you put forth is well founded and needed.  Do you have any thoughts on how it could be implemented? A starting point?  

A starting point?  

Existing social networks.  I would set up a Facebook page and Twitter account.  Break the lessons / questions down to tweet size. Above all else be persistent in promotion.  Advocacy, like life, is just so daily.  Let the sites grow organically.  That way they will point to how a more formal website should be structured.  

JMO.  Good luck.

 

 

The howls of outrage are because you would "protect and sustain the integrity and value of our democracy" by creating additional barriers to citizens exercising their constitutional right to vote. That is not how you promote a better informed, more engaged electorate; that is how you put down the rabble and further alienate people from their government. And that is the real and growing crisis of American democracy. I do not believe you are so naive as to not understand that.

You want a practical, positive proposal? Adopt the Canadian model: get the damn money out of the electoral process. No contributions from interest groups, strict caps on even individual campaign donations. And on spending by every single campaign at the national, state and local level. 

Take the money out of the equation, shoot all the lobbyists, and the possibility of corruption plummets. You'll start attracting a better class of politician, some of whom might even identify with We the People.

But that would take politicians who put the good of the system above their own benefit, and we haven't yet attracted that better class of politician, have we? So you're screwed.

shorter acanuck

I apologize for sounding jingoistic, since my point wasn't "we're so much better than you." It was that yes, it is possible to set simple, enforcable electoral rules that eliminate special-interest money from the equation -- if the political elite has the will to do that.

Canada was no doubt just lucky that the stars aligned in the mid-1990s to bring about serious, beneficial electoral reform. Legislators saw the dangers of a cash-driven political system and stepped back from the brink.

The United States has been headed in the exact opposite direction, at an increasing pace. Citizens United was, in my opinion, the last straw. Corporations as people, money as free speech -- all given the imprimatur of legality by a partisan Supreme Court. And the politicians who profit from such a corrupt system are the ones voters must rely on to undo the damage.

Good luck.

Damn Canucks, always so reserved and polite and humble (except on the ice).

Try it now: "hey you schmucks down there south of the border. We're better than you - you may call us 'America Lite', but our version works. Plus we have real beer, better health care, produce a Big 3 car or two, and have made an art out of compassionately clubbing baby Harp Seals while being environmentally sorry as all fuck. And did I mention the tar sands? Oil out the wazoo until at least 2025 - our snow blowers and Leonard Cohen collections depend on it. So come on up. And bring some of the good stuff when you do."

One minor correction: my CD players run on electricity generated by wind and rain.

So I'm greener than you, too.

For an old geezer, Leonard Cohen does rock, doesn't he?

He he he, they still have CD players... "warped by the heat, drivin' by the rain, ....but I'm still.... Willin' "

Turn me on, dead man, turn me on...

You calling me a Luddite, Peracles? I used the phrase "CD players" because I have five devices that can play CDs. They all do other things as well. The oldest one can even play 45s! OK, maybe I actually am a Luddite.

Ned? NED!!! At long last, you've come home!

As much as I hate repeating this (and I don't think you disagree), this is one reason why we can't have a Republican as President (including Ron Paul, tyvm) for the foreseeable future. If we want to have any chance of pulling back from the Citizens United brink, we can't afford to have any more Alitos, Roberts, Scalias, etc. on the court.

Maybe Canada is much better.  Paul Romer must think so:

 

The World Needs More Canada — Marginal Revolution:

"With the near unanimous support of its Congress, Honduras recently defined a new legal entity: la Región Especial de Desarrollo. A RED is an independent reform zone intended to offer jobs and safety to families who lack a good alternative; officials in the RED will be able to partner with foreign governments in critical areas such as policing, jurisprudence and transparency. By participating, Canada can lead an innovative approach to development assistance, an approach that tackles the primary roadblock to prosperity in the developing world: weak governance."

Interesting idea.  Canadian outposts sprinkled around the world as exemplars.

 

That's one helluva catchy song. Helluva.

What's it called? 

Not sure it'd be as popular up here, as Canadians tend to prefer the more danceable stuff, but hey... if this kindof brassy, anthemy thing turns your Yanks cranks, go for it!

- Confused in Corn Country

Catchy anthems can be dangerous.  Apt to lead young men to war.

This one even comes with a warning:

http://youtu.be/EfE7dGyONks

 

 

Then there's this one, useful to Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse.

http://youtu.be/IKI4GQ4c9g0

 

And, of course, pipes and drums are very good at inspiring the troops.

Easy, Tiger.

The Sacred must remain apart.

And never forget the effect of a band playing Waltzing Matilda:

http://youtu.be/PFCekeoSTwg

 

But sometimes all one can do is whistle a tune

 

 

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