Saturday, September 09, 2006

Discrimination in American Elections

Elections remain the one true legalized form of discrimination in America. They have always been a means of exclusion for those who control the rules. Voting laws, including those contained in the U.S. Constitution, have historically been rife with exclusionary measures, and measures meant to give certain populations of voters advantages.

The most obvious problem with American elections today is that Election Day is not a federal holiday. This is a simple means of discriminating against many working-class Americans who cannot find time to either get to the polls, or wait in line for the opportunity to vote. In St. Louis, and other U.S. municipalities, many voters who managed to make it to the polls in the 2000 elections were turned away when the voting hours ended. In some cases, hours were extended so that people who made it to the lines were able to vote, but then lawsuits were filed by other persons to dismiss those ballots. St. Louis City has since made special efforts to make sure every registered voter lucky enough to make it to their polling place gets to vote, but it will always be an issue as long as voters have to negotiate their own time for the effort.

Making Election Day a national holiday fixes most of the discriminatory problems with America's electoral system, so why hasn't it happened yet?

Other problems with our electoral system:
  • No need for ID to vote
    • Many municipalities do not require identification to vote. This is an opportunity for corruption. There's really very little excuse for a citizen not to be able to acquire some form of government-approved ID. This could be viewed as a complication of the voter registration process.
  • Registration can be difficult, and most often must take place in advance of the election
  • Voting boards are frequently unprepared for major voter turnouts, resulting in lawsuits and discouragement for legitimate voters.
  • Elections often take place with little or no notice.
  • Gerrymandering
    • Redefining electoral districts is a double-edged sword. It's been a problem since our nation's birth.
  • Direct vs. Indirect voting
    • Did you know the Senate used to be an indirect vote, like the Presidency? Is it time to abolish the electoral college? Do you really trust the average citizen's ability to choose a good leader? If not, you share the same mentality as our nation's founders, as well as those officials who keep stonewalling any effort to make Election Day a federal holiday.
  • Moving polls to locations inconvenient for some population
  • No federal standards for ballots or voting machines
  • Electronic voting machine vulnerabilities
    • Did you know that many municipalities allow clerks to take home voting machines at night? Did you know that Diebold makes most of the voting machines that governments purchase, and that they are constantly found to have vulnerabilities that make it easy for a person with some level of compentency in electronics to rig elections without detection!?
  • Campaign financing
    • Serious candidates should probobly be given equal opportunity to express their views, and mobilizing large groups of voters can be an extremely costly endeavor. Some sort of media coverage should be available to candidates, and parity should be sought wherever possible in campaign spending, while still allowing for competitive advantages to those candidates who are willing to work harder for attention.
  • Lack of media coverage
    • The St. Louis Post-Dispatch does a good job of providing their Voter's Guide for every election, and political television does poorly with the average viewer. It is a challenge to educate voters on the issues at hand, and the various aspects of each candidate's views and personality.
  • Two-party dominance
    • I and most of my friends have either registered independent or don't vote at all, because we don't want to align ourselves with these self-serving, corporate-sponsored, uninspiring imbiciles that call themselves Democrats and Republicans. It's time for a new party...
    • Fusion voting is a strategy for creating third parties.
Election laws are interesting because they allow for institutionalized discrimination. In this modern world we live in, it's difficult to understand why there are so many major hurdles for some citizens to overcome in order to make an informed vote. It's always been this way, and it's always been wrong.

The American Center for Voting Rights Legislative Fund is a promising start to remedying many of these issues.
Theres a bill currently in committee in the U.S. House of Representatives to make Election Day a federal holiday. The Democracy Day Act of 2005. Let's hope it passes:

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