An Independent View of Voting Rights in America

Vote-2014

Hillary Clinton recently made some comments in Hillary Clinton – Texas Southern University about voting rights in America. “All of these problems voting just didn’t happen by accident,” she said. “And it is just wrong — it’s wrong — to try to prevent, undermine and inhibit Americans’ right to vote.” Like much of the rhetoric coming from politicians, I can agree on what she said, even if I don’t agree with the person who’s saying them. This is clearly a pathetic move to try and get more of the minority vote, but putting politics aside for a moment, I wanted to take some time to look at voting in America, the laws concerning the right to vote, as well as some problems and possible solutions to them.

Automatic Voter Registration

As the New York Times reported back in March, “Oregon is First State to Adopt Automatic Voter Registration“. Being that this is the first state to have done it, we haven’t really been able to see what the full effects of this law will be yet. That being said, I do have some concerns. For starters, this law means that the responsibility and burden of registration goes from the citizen to the State. According to the law, eligible voters will be selected from the DMV database and mailed a postcard informing them that they’ve been registered with no party affiliation. Perspective voters can choose a party at that time or simply opt-out of the voting process all together.Although I have some concerns about the potential for abuse, as I said before, it’s never been tested here in the states, so I want to reserve judgement on this particular issue. I don’t think something like this is necessary, nor do I think it will make a major difference in turnout, but we will wait and see if I’m wrong.

Identification Requirements

In her speech on Thursday, Hillary Clinton spoke about voting rights saying, “What is happening is a sweeping effort to dis-empower and disenfranchise people of color, poor people and young people from one end of our country to the other,” she accused her GOP rivals of being “scared of letting citizens have their say”. Although I don’t agree with her completely, I do think some states go a little too far and others probably don’t go far enough on this issue.

For instance, according to Ballotpedia, there are 17 states that do require some form of identification and 15 states that do not. Personally, I think you should have to show some form of picture ID to vote. There are those that say this is too cumbersome for “people of color, poor people and young people”. To that point, I would suggest free photo-ID cards, issued by the DMV for anyone eligible to vote. If you can prove your citizenship to them, you should be able to vote. If you can’t prove that you were born in the US and if you can’t provide proof of address for your district, then I don’t think you should be able to vote. Sounds harsh, but I really don’t understand why it’s so complicated.

Mail-In Ballots and Electronic Voting Systems

As far as I’ve been able to tell, there hasn’t been a significant number of instances of mail-in or absentee voter fraud. Justin Levitt of the Washington Post was only able to cite 31 cases of voter impersonation since 2000. Personally, I don’t have a problem with mail-in ballots, as long as we can be sure they’re being counted and potential abuse can be detected. Unlike automatic registration, we do have a history of mail-in ballots, which seems to be going well, so far.

Electronic voter fraud, however, is something that I’m worried about. There was a Robin Williams movie called “Man of the Year” where faulty programming in the machines elected the wrong person. I know, movies aren’t exactly the best sources when you’re trying to talk about the dangers of something, so here are just two recent examples: In October 2014, a “calibration error” changed GOP votes to Democratic candidates in Chicago, Illinois. Later that same year, in November 2014, voting machines in Greensboro, North Carolina we’re caught selecting the wrong candidate.

Non-Citizen’s Right to Vote

To me, and most likely to you as well, this seems like a straight-forward issue. I am of the belief that only legal citizens of this country should be allowed to vote. Although it may seem simple to you and I, there are those who don’t quite see it that clearly. As reported by Reuters,”New York Lawmaker Aims to Give Voting Rights to Illegal Immigrants“. Democratic Senator from New York Gustavo Rivera said, “With failure at the national level on comprehensive immigration reform, the question we have asked is what can states do?” Apparently, his answer is to give illegal aliens the right to vote. This is preposterous and should be opposed at every level of government!

Final Thoughts

There are real problems with voting in America, least of which is the right to vote, in my opinion. I believe, when it comes to voting rights, so long as you’re a citizen of the United States, and you can prove it, you should have the right to vote. The requirements and standard of proof should be lenient enough so that all who are eligible can participate, but stringent enough so that the required documentation can’t be easily falsified. In regards to voting itself, I think we should go back to paper ballots. Electronic voting, although convenient, is too easily complicated by faulty programming and hacking. So, those are my thoughts, and I look forward to your comments on this topic below.

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