California Leads the Way to Making the United States a Democracy

Voting 1945The big news over the past few of years has been the rise of voter ID laws and many other efforts designed to make voting harder than it already is. This is being done almost exclusively by conservatives. I don’t doubt the sincerity of conservative voters; they’ve been manipulated for years into thinking that if only voting were fair then Ted Cruz would be President for Life. It’s the conservative elites who have pushed this disingenuous narrative that voter fraud is a problem that must be fixed.

Think about it in the opposite way. If there is a legal voter who is stopped from voting, this is what I will call institutional voter fraud. Voting, as it is construed by most people, is a right. It isn’t something that one should have to earn. On the right, people are concerned about votes being “canceled out” by fraudulent votes, but there is no concern about votes being canceled out by them simply not being allowed. This is where the pathetic number of actual fraudulent votes is important: to stop a handful of cases of voter fraud, we create a hundred or thousand times as many cases of institutional voter fraud. That is what the voter ID campaigns are: a form of (currently legal) voter fraud.

Even as conservatives have been working to stop democracy, there are places where work is being done to expand voting rights. The Brennan Center for Justice puts out a Voting Laws Roundup each year with the good and bad news. And it isn’t all blue states either. For example, Louisiana recently passed a law that would allow 16- and 17-year-olds to pre-register to vote when they apply for driver’s licenses. And Oklahoma expanded access to absentee ballots to people living on tribal lands. But as usual, the only red state doing anything big was Utah, which established a “pilot program for election day registration.”

I’m very pleased that my home state of California has been on the leading edge of this, and we made a massive step forward over the weekend. The Los Angeles Times reported, Governor Brown Approves Automatic Voter Registration for Californians. It isn’t perfect. It is tied to the state DMV. When people get or renew a driver’s license, they will automatically be registered to vote. But given this is California, that is the vast majority of people. The system doesn’t require people to register, of course. They may opt-out if they wish. But the default will be to register them. This will result in up to 7 million more people registered to vote. The system will not be fully operational until June 2016.

I wonder about my own commitment to democracy. If I were a conservative, would I say what I hear so many conservatives say, “I don’t want people to vote unless they are well informed like me!”? I’d like to think that I would be in favor of democracy regardless. But I recall when I was a libertarian being fairly disinterested in voter turnout. Regardless, I think that most people in America do believe in democracy. And like so many things in US politics, the distinction between the left and the right is clear: the left believes in people voting and the right does not.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

22 thoughts on “California Leads the Way to Making the United States a Democracy

  1. It is the undesirables v the desirables again. The list for undesirables for the Republicans is longer because it includes people who are not-white, female, poor, young, middle class, gay, single parents, and non-Republicans.

    The list of undesirables for Democrats is (or was in California) “you can turn in your voter registration form” if they see the party affiliation box is filled with “Republican.” But it seems like they are now “we don’t care, our volunteers are going to do microtargeting instead of registration.”

    I guess this means we have to keep waiting to see if the coming die off of reactionary old people will have the impact the pundits say it will. (Spoiler: it won’t.)

    • I’ve heard some conservatives come right out and say you shouldn’t be able to vote if you don’t owe income tax or own property. (After all, the property restriction is what the Saintly Founders wanted!) “Voter fraud” is how this issue is being sold to people who genuinely believe in voting rights for all. The goal is disenfranchisement, as you said.

      Years ago, a local newspaper writer (forget the name) did a story on how these issues are test-marketed at phony “town hall” meetings. The writer attended one such meeting in way northern Minnesota. Basically it was just throwing out hot-button issues to see if the attempts at how to frame them were working. At that particular meeting, the issue which struck a chord was “illegal immigrants” — a huge problem facing northern Minnesotans, why is why we have a 100-foot wall on the Canadian border.

      I’m sure they’ve done exactly the same with voting restrictions. They tried a bunch of framing schemes and “voter fraud” tested best. These people are well-funded; they do a lot of fearmongering R & D!

      • So that explains those stupid Social Security town halls that the Republicans had in 2005!

        Unfortunately for them, they have not figured out that once you leave the bubble, people are not big fans of their ideas.

        • Just for crazy’s sake, I found the article! It was driving me bananas I couldn’t remember the author’s name; I kept thinking Norm Coleman, and THAT ain’t right. It was Nick Coleman! Here’s the opening:

          http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-140325440.html

          It’s in the StarTribune archives, so it’s not free (unless your library/company has access to archived newspapers, some do.) But I conveyed the gist. I forgot it was southern Minnesota, not the north.

          Incidentally that author bounced between our two local papers getting fired for being too liberal, aka reporting stories conservatives want hidden. I think he’s retired, now.

    • To be fair, the issue is that most people do voter registration for a particular group — for example, the Democratic Party. But by law, the people doing that work can’t pick and choose who they help. They are collecting the Democratic registrations so they can turn them in to get paid. I’ve found people working for the Republicans who do the same thing.

      The problem is that in/out group politics will always be with us. At one time, Italians weren’t “white.” One day, African Americans might be “white.” It is always possible to slice and dice the electorate. And the Republicans are really great at doing just that. I’m not so much interested in elections as moving the entire political discussion to the left. Then we win even when we lose. The way it has been the last 40 years is that we lose even when we win.

      • People get paid to do voter registration? I got gypped! Heh.

        To change the conversation, the left needs to be a lot more active in getting people to run. It is nice that there is ample evidence out there on what works economically speaking but it is not nice that there is no one who is running for office with the information to go to the town hall events. I am not sure why that is-I know you would not make a good candidate (sorry) so it makes sense you would not run. But other people who do not have your flaws-like maybe James-should at least give it a try. You do not even have to be as hyperactive as I was when I ran the first time but even having your name out there with a different letter has a chance to shake up the race and pull it in one direction.

        • Thanks, but my flaws are enough for a small army. My dream office is the one William Burroughs wanted — an utterly corrupt Commissioner Of Sewers. Feasting on all the kickbacks from everyone in city government knowing I could make the streets run brown if they failed to pay appropriate tribute. Sounds kinda Ankh-Morpok, come to think of it . . .

          • I think your flaws are not quite the same-Frank does not strike me as the power hungry type. Even my most beloved politician-Paul Wellstone-had the (very mild) hunger for power. And he admits he finds it hard to tell others what to do.

            You…don’t strike me as someone who has either of those two particular flaws. And the rest of them can be managed with proper spin.

        • That’s a great idea! James, are you listening?! I’ll come to Minnesota and manage your campaign! On second thought, maybe you’d be better off with a small donation from me.

    • Sigh. I get so tired of the “demographics will solve everything” line. Let’s leave aside the possibility that people might change their affiliations. We are still living in the age of Reagan and while I don’t know how current demographics shake out, I do remember political analysis following Reagan’s election. The current crop of oldsters, the Boomers, were not that fond of Reagan. His support was much stronger among the parents of the Boomers (“Greatest Generation”) and among GenX’ers. Whose demise is it that we are waiting for exactly?

      • In the short term, getting more Latinos and young people to vote will have a liberalizing effect. In 20 years, maybe not.

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