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The most important part of any free society is the right to vote.  It is our ability to make our voices heard at the ballot box that grants us what power we have.  Nearly all of us feel as though we have too little power as it is.  To do anything to deny any citizen the right to vote, or to make it more difficult to vote is, in my view, patently immoral.

Let’s get the talking points out of the way off the top:

  1.  We must protect ourselves from fraud.

    Nonsense.  Voter fraud is all but non-existent.  If you’re truly concerned with that, let’s see what we can do about changing to something called block chain voting.  Even a brief Google search, however, brings up many suggestions that this, too, may be insecure.  Evidently this form of internet voting can still be hacked, despite the many claims I have heard to the contrary.  Do you know more about blockchain voting than I do?  That wouldn’t be difficult.  Please call the show and tell me what you know, and whether this is really a secure and feasible idea to make elections both secure and easily accessible for as many people as possible.  (480) 331 – 9822. 

    I have no objection to making voting secure, but I also have no reason to believe it isn’t already.  The idea of making elections more secure is a solution in search of a problem.

    · The Brennan Center’s seminal report on this issue, The Truth About Voter Fraud, found that most reported incidents of voter fraud are actually traceable to other sources, such as clerical errors or bad data matching practices. The report reviewed elections that had been meticulously studied for voter fraud, and found incident rates between 0.0003 percent and 0.0025 percent. Given this tiny incident rate for voter impersonation fraud, it is more likely, the report noted, that an American “will be struck by lightning than that he will impersonate another voter at the polls.”

    The link to the article is in the show notes.
  •  There are People Who Shouldn’t Be Allowed to Vote

Really?  Why is that?  Let’s go through the most common list.  First, there are convicted criminals.  There’s debate about whether they should have their right to vote restored to them once they have served their sentence.  I understand that there are people who need to be locked up to keep the rest of us safe.  I don’t deny the need for a prison system of some sort.  But… why can’t they vote?  What is it you’re afraid they’re going to do?  The worst I can imagine is they will vote for people who are most likely to repeal the laws they were convicted of breaking.  I have no objection to someone voting to repeal the laws against marijuana.  I’ll go further and suggest that Oregon has it right.  They have decriminalized possession of all drugs.  Why do we need to lock someone up for possessing drugs?  If they get wasted and commit a crime in which someone is hurt, by all means, arrest them.  But owning something that isn’t dangerous to others is no reason for one to lose the liberty, both physical and political, that is the birthright of all people.  I don’t think they’re going to find many candidates running on the idea of legalizing murder, rape, or car theft.  So… let them vote.  If it were up to me, they would be voting from their prison cells.  They are still human beings.  They deserve the right to have their voices heard. 

The Founding Fathers didn’t intend, I realize, most people to vote.  Slaves weren’t allowed to vote.  Women weren’t allowed to vote.  We’ve eliminated (at least superficially) slavery, and I prefer we don’t eliminate women.  It’s fairly commonly accepted that women and Black people should be allowed to vote.  I don’t think there’s anyone sitting on our Porch tonight who would seriously try to argue those folks should be disenfranchised. 

Next, there is the idea that Illegal Aliens shouldn’t be allowed to vote.  Please don’t, in my presence, ever refer to these people as “Illegals.”  It is not illegal to be a person.  When this occurs, we will be living in a dystopian nightmare.  They may be in America illegally, but that doesn’t make them Illegal.  It may, I suppose, make them criminals, but I am truly sickened by the idea that there are people who will go to prison or be thrown out of the country because they lack the paperwork to be here legally.  Paperwork exists to ensure nothing ever gets accomplished.  Or… such has been my experience.  I’m sure many of you are big fans of paperwork.  To me, it’s a symbol of mistrust.  It’s true, it seems, only if it’s committed to paper. 

Our government moves at a glacial pace.  Earning citizenship can be not only prohibitively expensive, but it can also take years.  All the while, people are trying to live:  Mothers and fathers, daughters and sons, infants.  All just trying to live their lives while they wait and wait for paperwork to be completed.  There is nothing magical about the paperwork that makes them better people than before it was processed.  It simply says they were patient, they persevered, they persisted, and they paid.  If you live in this country, you should have a say in how it’s governed.  Other countries don’t do this?  Okay.  Let’s be better than other countries.

  •  The last election was stolen; this must never happen again, so we need more prohibitive voting laws.

I don’t think you really believe that.  The evidence that the 2020 election was accurate is overwhelming.  The myth that the election was stolen is commonly referred to as “The Big Lie.”  It’s been thrown out of court more than 60 times.  Ballots were counted and recounted.  On The Front Porch we discuss ideas that lead somewhere.  We’ve spent far too much time with that nonsense already.  No.  The Election was not stolen.  If you have evidence to the contrary, please turn it over to the proper authorities. 

I think we have addressed the most common talking points now, so let’s move on to why they’re just wrong to try to make voting more difficult.  Whether you are a Republican, a Democrat, a Libertarian, a member of The Green Party, The Communist Party, or the Frat Party, you get to vote.  Your voice counts exactly as much as mine.  Regardless of how much I may disagree with you, I want you not only to have the opportunity to vote, but I would like you to make use of it.  Democracy works best when… oh wait… I heard that. 

We don’t live in a Democracy, Fred; we live in a Constitutional Republic.

Oh, aren’t you clever?  You’re so much smarter than I am.  You must have read a history book once.  I shall bow to your superior knowledge.  I am cowed by the overwhelming power and magnitude of your argument.  We don’t live in a Democracy.  You’re right.  I’m wrong. 

There’s a difference between the two.  Let’s see what a three-second Google search reveals on this important bit of political knowledge.

In a pure democracy, laws are made directly by the voting majority leaving the rights of the minority largely unprotected. In a republic, laws are made by representatives chosen by the people and must comply with a constitution that specifically protects the rights of the minority from the will of the majority.”

So, you know, voting doesn’t really mean anything.  It’s not a democracy.  Except… oh wait, again!  Yes.  Yes, as it turns out, voting does matter.  “laws are made by representatives chosen by the people.” How do we choose these representatives?  Do we do it by drawing lots?  Perhaps by tossing darts?  No?  No, you’re right.  We do this thing called… what’s it called?  Oh, yes… voting. 

Making it more difficult to vote is making being an American, being a free human being, more difficult.  Why would we want to do that?  Aren’t we The Land of The Free and The Home of The Brave?  I know I’ve heard that somewhere before. 

Let’s be brave enough to allow the people to choose their representatives.  When appropriate, let’s allow the people to vote directly on their laws.  Let’s make being an American the easiest thing to do.  Whether we agree about anything politically, I feel certain we can agree that voting is our most basic right.  It’s not to be reserved for straight, white male landowners.  It turns out the person farming the land for the landlord matters, too. 

See, this is the thing.  All people are human.  I like some of them.  I don’t like others.  This is true for all of us.  But, I also recognize that all of us, even people I don’t like, deserve the best possible life.  To get that sort of life, we need to be able to choose representatives that exemplify our interests.  This would include the interests of those who have no money.  That group is becoming larger all the time. The pandemic caused a massive rise in poverty.  Their voices need to be included in the discussion.  The voices of the rich have plenty of representation.  Let’s make it as easy as possible for those who don’t have cars to drive to their polling places to vote.  Let’s make it as efficient as we can for people who live on roads with no names and no power to make their voices heard.  They’re Americans, too.  Let’s make sure that The Newsroom’s Dorothy Cooper can vote.  Oh… you don’t know her?  I’ll drop a link to the video in the show notes, but this is what Will McAvoy tells us in an episode of the fictional show, “The Newsroom.”

Dorothy Cooper is a 96 year old resident of Chattanooga, Tennessee and has been voting for the last 75 years.  This year, she has been told she can’t.  A new law in Tennessee requires residents to show a government issued photo ID in order to vote.  Dorothy Cooper doesn’t have a driver’s license, because Dorothy Cooper doesn’t have a car. Dorothy Cooper doesn’t have a passport; a vacation abroad was never in her future.

Tennessee isn’t alone.  At this moment,  33 states have proposed or already adopted the same voter ID laws that have disqualified Dorothy Cooper from the one fundamental thing that we all do as Americans.  It’s estimated that 11% or roughly 20 million people don’t have government issued voter IDs and will be disenfranchised this November.   Why?  To crack down on the terrible problem of voter fraud.  Governor Rick Perry of Texas, who is about to enter the presidential primary race, is serious about cracking down on the problem:

>Video of Perry:  “Making sure that there is not fraud, making sure that someone is not manipulating that process makes all the sense in the world to me.”<

Me too.  Because voter fraud is such a huge problem that during a five year period in the Bush Administration, when 196 million votes were cast, the number of cases of voter fraud reached…86.   Not 86,000.  86.  Here’s what that number looks like as a percentage of votes cast.  .00004%.  Four one hundred thousandths of a percent.  This would be called a solution without a problem, but it’s not.  It’s just a solution to a different problem.  

Dorothy Cooper should be able to vote.  No matter who she votes for, her voice is one that should be counted.  She is no less of a person because she has no driver’s license.  Jon Kavanaugh, a lawmaker right here in Arizona, said:

 “There’s a fundamental difference between Democrats and Republicans. Democrats value as many people as possible voting, and they’re willing to risk fraud. Republicans are more concerned about fraud, so we don’t mind putting security measures in that won’t let everybody vote — but everybody shouldn’t be voting.”

He pointed to Democrats’ emphasis on registering voters and pursuing those who have not returned ballots — tactics that Republicans have successfully implemented in other swing states — and said doing so means that “you can greatly influence the outcome of the election if one side pays people to actively and aggressively go out and retrieve those ballots.”

“Not everybody wants to vote, and if somebody is uninterested in voting, that probably means that they’re totally uninformed on the issues,” Kavanagh said. “Quantity is important, but we have to look at the quality of votes, as well.”

The link will be in the show notes:

There is no such thing as “quality” in voting, Mr. Kavanaugh. If someone is uninformed, let’s do better at getting them the facts.  Even Huck Finn’s Pap should have the right to vote.  (Trigger warning: the following sequence, quoted from Mark Twain, makes use of a word I will never use, myself, and that I do not wish to hear anyone else use.  I decline, however, to edit America’s first great writer.)

Heather Cox Richardson, whose daily news summaries are sufficient to cover most of my news needs, showed us how much voting matters.

March 10, 2021 (Wednesday)

Today was a big day for the United States of America.

The House of Representatives passed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, accepting the changes to the measure that the Senate had added. This bill marks a sea change in our government. Rather than focusing on dismantling the federal government and turning individuals loose to act as they wish, Congress has returned to the principles of the nation before 1981, using the federal government to support ordinary Americans. With its expansion of the child tax credit, the bill is projected to reach about 27 million children and to cut child poverty in half.

The bill, which President Biden is expected to sign Friday,(UPDATE: Biden signed it on Thursday) is a landmark piece of legislation, reversing the trend of American government since Ronald Reagan’s 1981 tax cut. Rather than funneling money upward in the belief that those at the top will invest in the economy and thus create jobs for poorer Americans, the Democrats are returning to the idea that using the government to put money into the hands of ordinary Americans will rebuild the economy from the bottom up. This was the argument for the very first expansion of the American government—during Abraham Lincoln’s administration—and it was the belief on which President Franklin Delano Roosevelt created the New Deal.

Unlike the previous implementations of this theory, though, Biden’s version, embodied in the American Rescue Plan, does not privilege white men (who in Lincoln and Roosevelt’s day were presumed to be family breadwinners). It moves money to low-wage earners generally, especially to women and to people of color.

Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) called the child tax credit “a new lifeline to the middle class.” “Franklin Roosevelt lifted seniors out of poverty, 90 percent of them with Social Security, and with the stroke of a pen,” she said. “President Biden is going to lift millions and millions of children out of poverty in this country.”

Republican lawmakers all voted against the bill despite the fact that 76% of Americans, including 59% of Republicans, like the measure. Still, the disjunction between the bill’s popularity and their opposition to it put them in a difficult spot. Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) tweeted positively about the bill this evening, leaving the impression he had voted for it. Twitter users wanted no part of the deception, immediately calling him out for touting a bill he had opposed (although he had been a Republican co-sponsor of the amendment about which he was boasting).

This is why we need to have the greatest possible number of people voting.  When we have more voters, we can pass legislation that actually helps people.  Those who are opposed to helping the poor are going to need to defend their votes in upcoming elections.  Voting is how we hold our representatives accountable. 

Our representatives decide who will be able to vote.  They decide who will be able to stave off, for one more month, the plunge into a poverty from which there is often no escape.  They decide who will be the judges that interpret our laws, and who will be the people who enforce them.  Their decisions directly affect your life.  You need to have a voice in choosing who will make those decisions. 

Even if you entirely oppose all of my political views, I think we agree that we must protect our ability to vote.  It’s all the power we have.  Vote against all of the programs I endorse if that’s your wish.  But let’s allow this to be a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.  Isn’t that the least we should have if we’re to be called a Free People?

If it were up to me, we would scrap the Electoral College, which has more than once robbed the candidate with the most votes of the Presidency.  If I had been a Trump voter in Arizona in 2020, I would have felt disenfranchised because my vote didn’t matter.  More Arizonans voted for Biden than Trump, so slightly over half of the votes in Arizona counted, while the rest were irrelevant.  Who is better off for this?  I would prefer that every vote counted equally.  My one vote in Arizona is worth as much as someone else’s one vote in California, although they have five times as many electoral votes as we do. 

I have read that part of the reason we continue to have the Electoral College is because of the legacy of slavery.  A national popular vote would have kept slave owners from getting votes on behalf of their slaves.  This was unacceptable at the time.  Slavery is, however, at least ostensibly, gone.  Perhaps the Electoral College could follow it.  As it stands, I am more certain that either a Republican or a Democrat will be elected President in 2024 than I am that Valerie Bertinelli will not be inviting me to dinner before then. 

I did an entirely unscientific and informal survey on my Facebook page.  It offers me nothing beyond what the few friends who commented thought, but those were the only people with whom I was concerned anyway.  Most of them thought that most people need to be able to vote.  There were a few who brought up age as being a requirement, and a few who wanted it limited to citizens and withheld from those currently incarcerated, but there was some debate about why those in prison cells shouldn’t be allowed to vote.  Some believed violent criminals shouldn’t be allowed to vote, as it would be a fitting punishment.  I’m not sure if I agree with that.  It will require more thought.

A good point was made that, at 16, many of us are working already. If we’re working, we’re paying taxes.  If we’re paying taxes, we should be represented.  There was something in American history about “taxation without representation.”  If memory serves, we fought an entire war about that idea.  It seems reasonable to let someone vote at 16.  The consensus was that 12 is too early.  That’s a topic about which I would love to hear more.  You might leave me your thoughts at (480) 331 – 9822. I promise I won’t answer the phone.  Just leave me a voicemail, and I’ll play it and respond on the air. 

There was a suggestion that “People who incite or engage in insurrection against the United States government and its citizens” shouldn’t be allowed to vote.  I think that’s an interesting idea.  It’s as though they have already decided voting is not how a government should be run, so I think that may be a valid point. 

No one found any value in voter suppression laws.  They are being proposed all over the country.  My state, Arizona, has proposed nearly 2 dozen bills to make it more difficult to vote.  We can speculate about why.  I have a Facebook friend who constantly contends the Republicans can win only by cheating.  I would like for Republicans, Democrats, and any other political party to win by convincing the greatest number of people their ideas are the best ones for running our nation.  And I would like voting to be an easy right to assert.  Vote by mail.  Vote by dropping off a ballot in a conveniently located collection box.  Put voting booths everywhere.  Set them up inside Walmarts.  Let’s find voters where they are, and let’s listen to what they want.

In this way, we can save our country.  In this way, we can allow more people to… Shine.

While I still have you, I wanted to mention something entirely irrelevant to this episode, but that gave me a bit of joy this week.  These are just a couple of moments collected from my Physical Front Porch.

The mother who lives two doors down from me just told me she listened to an episode of my Podcast. That made me unreasonably happy.

Her 11-month-old son has a fever. He’s perfectly happy, she tells me, but she took him to the doctor to be safe. I told her I hope he gets better soon.

My next-door neighbor believes I’m famous.  I find that amusing.  I don’t believe it will ever be true. 

This is my life now. I think there’s something lovely about it. It’s quiet. It’s simple. It’s mine.  I hope yours is the same.  Let’s vote to make sure that happens for everyone.