“All the evils of democracy can be cured by more democracy.”
Al Smith, Governor of New York
One of the challenges our country has faced is the inability to find common ground on which to build a relationship between those on the left, right and center.
As a result, we’ve entered an era of hyper-partisanship in which we go to our respective echo chambers to find solace in words that reflect – and reinforce – an idea we own.
Of course you know that; I am not telling you anything new – nor am I here to change your perception of the political or social world; it’s a crazy race.
But I did my best to find real common ground on which we could begin to build a new foundation for our country.
And I think I can have it.
However, it will take your help to follow it.
So, let’s start by focusing on the most pressing crisis facing our nation: voting rights.
Yes, I said the most urgent problem because all the other problems our nation faces are secondary and even unimportant if we cannot fix this problem.
But rather than pick on those who I think are fundamentally wrong in their attitudes and actions regarding the right to vote, I prefer to get to the point: democracy.
Because that’s where I think we could find that common ground.
Because by its very definition, a democracy requires the existence of the vote of those who are governed by democratic rules.
If you don’t have a vote, you don’t have a democracy.
But more specifically, if you don’t have a free and fair vote, you don’t have a democracy; you have a banana republic.
And this is where our political debate – no, partisan – lies: how to ensure a free and fair vote?
Well, let’s start with some other things we could (or should) agree on: A person’s right to vote is not absolute.
In this country, an individual must meet at least three basic conditions: age, residence and marital status.
When I entered the service during the Vietnam project, I could not vote; the age was 21.
But reason eventually prevailed, and the national voting age was lowered to 18 to reflect the maxim that if you were old enough to enlist, you should be old enough to vote.
(The same goes for having a drink, but this was changed later.)
Of course, residency comes into play – at all voting levels.
Nationally (and all other levels below), you must be a U.S. citizen (a legal resident of our nation) to vote.
At the lower levels – state, county, city – you must also follow the respective local residency rules: you cannot vote for the mayor of Allen Park if you live in Lincoln Park; we can’t elect the governor of Ohio.
Then there’s your marital status: in almost every state you can’t be a convicted felon and vote; you lost that privilege by breaking the law.
(Crimes don’t count.)
Unless you live in Vermont, Maine, and the District of Columbia: in these jurisdictions, criminals never lose their right to vote.
In Michigan, convicted felons get their votes back after serving their sentence.
But in 11 states, criminals lose their right to vote indefinitely for certain crimes.
To get their vote back, they must be pardoned by the governor, wait until their parole and probation is complete, or meet other requirements.
(By the way, this disparity in the rules reflects the very fact that states make most electoral rules, not the federal government.)
So, three basic voting conditions: age, residence and marital status.
No payment for a ballot.
No guessing the number of marbles in a jar.
No obligation to read and write, even your own name.
If you meet these three criteria, you cannot be refused a ballot.
So why the disconnect between the various defenders of voting rights: those who want to make sure that every qualified American can vote and those who want to make sure that every qualified American is who they say they are?
Well, basically there should be no dispute: both parties should want to make sure that someone who arrives at the polls or requests a postal ballot is who they say they are.
In fact, both sides are doing it: According to a Monmouth University poll conducted last month, 80% of Americans are in favor of voters showing photo ID to vote.
In that same poll, 71% said in-person early voting should be made easier.
But what about postal voting?
Well, this is really where the shoe pinches: Pollsters found that only 50% said it should be made easier and 39% said it should be harder.
But in 2018, Michigan voters approved – by a margin of 67% to 33% – a ballot proposal that included allowing postal voting without excuse.
The new law also:
• Protects the right to vote by secret ballot
• Ensures that military service members and foreign voters can obtain ballots
• Offers residents the opportunity to vote directly for the party
• Automatically registers citizens to vote at the Secretary of State’s office unless the citizen refuses
• Allows a citizen to register to vote at any time with proof of residence
• Ensures the accuracy and integrity of elections by verifying election results
Coupled with our voter ID requirement, it’s clear Michigan has one of the toughest voting rights laws in the country.
But that didn’t stop some from attacking the process, as they didn’t like the outcome in 2020.
Which brings me, unfortunately, to the other common ground that all parties share: the debate is not finished in itself; it’s over any process that creates a result contrary to what someone wants.
Yes, we can all agree on this point: there was nothing wrong with the voting process in Michigan; repeated audits (required by law) and court challenges have systematically refuted allegations of ballot stuffing and other cases of alleged “fraud”.
But that hasn’t stopped “Big Lie” supporters from continuing to repeat false claims in support of their lost cause.
So here we are: common ground anchored in the foundations of a democracy, supported by demands and processes designed to protect that democracy.
And they worked.
So why the problem?
Well, since this is not so much a “process” issue as it is a “political” issue, then South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham’s famous comment is all we need to know:
“If we do nothing to vote by mail, we will lose the possibility of electing a Republican in this country,” he said.
Of course, what he meant by doing “something” was finding ways to restrict the right to vote even – by Democrats (he said it!) – I just explained; introduce mechanisms that would allow supporters to circumvent these three fundamental criteria: age, residence, civil status.
What if the Trumplicans can’t accomplish this; if they cannot introduce new demands into the concept of democracy, then they have only one option.
What you saw in broad daylight on January 6: changing the way we count votes.
And if we ever get to the point that the will of the people to vote in a fair and free manner can be undermined by otherwise “public” officials, then our democracy is threatened with erasure.
Yes, it really is that serious – as playwright Tom Stoppard once said: “It’s not the vote that is democracy; it is counting.
So, no, I’m not too concerned about the machinations of a political party desperate to mess up the voting process – removing the ballot boxes, restricting voting times and doing whatever is necessary to put up roadblocks. in front of those who would like to have them ousted. .
No, I am much more worried about movements that jeopardize the counting of ballots.
I’m more worried that the next time the insurgents succeed – with the help and complicity of the Trumplicants – in stopping the constitutionally mandated acceptance of verified Electoral College vote totals.
Because that will be the day when democracy dies in America.
I wonder if we can agree on this.
Craig Farrand is a former editor of The News-Herald newspapers. He can be contacted at [email protected]