First we need our voices heard
Letter to the Editor | Friday, November 30, 2018
Single-issue voters dominate the U.S. political system, voting for candidates that pass their litmus test whether it be healthcare, abortion, immigration or gun control. Unfortunately, the winner of most elections are already decided due to a combination of legislation that skews the vote one way or the other; democracy is a prerequisite to representative policy, yet our democracy is in disrepair. American voters need to disregard their litmus tests and begin voting for candidates that will restore democracy to the United States — not that we ever perfected it. Then, the U.S. will see true representation in the government, one that works for the people.
Citizens United represents the most intrusive force upon our democracy. Under the guise of free speech, the Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission Supreme Court case allows corporations to invest endless money into skewing elections toward their own interests. Not only have corporations directed this power to distort voters views of certain policies, but they have also directed the power to strong arm candidates into signing behind-the-doors understandings that lead to support for certain policies in exchange for monetary contributions. Dark money now plagues our political system, and it’s time to vote for politicians that stand against it.
Beyond dark money, current laws are disenfranchising millions of U.S. voters which impedes fair elections, especially when the tactics are being weaponized against low-income minorities. One does not need to disagree with the idea behind voter ID laws to understand that the current implementation of them is targeted and discriminatory. In 2013, North Carolina implemented a narrow list of acceptable identification so specifically chosen to disenfranchise minority voters that it prompted the district court to rule that the law was intended to “target African Americans with almost surgical precision.”
North Carolina is not alone. Thirty-four states have adopted voter ID laws with 13 of them having strict voter ID laws. The laws are passed under the farce of voter fraud, yet the Washington Post reveals in the most comprehensive study on voter fraud that out of 1 billion ballots cast from 2000 to 2014, there were only 31 cases of voter fraud. With numbers like these, strict voter ID laws, which disenfranchise hundreds of thousands, are clearly not needed.
Additionally, felon disenfranchisement policies prevent 6 million citizens from voting. Forty-eight states implement felon disenfranchisement in some manner, four of which never allow a felon to regain the right to vote. Felon disenfranchisement does not affect all groups equally; one in every 13 black citizens is barred from voting, a number four times as great as non-black citizens. Regardless of felon status, which is arbitrarily determined by government officials, everyone should be able to participate in a democracy; nothing sounds more Orwellian than allowing a government to implement harsh policies, send millions to jail, then bar them from voting against those policies. In a country that makes up 5 percent of the world population yet houses 25 percent of the prison population that dystopia does not stray far from the truth.
Even if Citizens United were overturned, reasonable voter ID laws were implemented and felons were fully enfranchised, many elections are still predetermined due to gerrymandered districts. Unless the blame is being placed upon the two-party system, the issue of gerrymandering should not be a blame game. Both political parties are guilty. The problem is widespread; for example, in 2012, Wisconsinites voted 53 percent Democrat, yet Republicans won 60 percent of the seats. The issue is so prevalent that only 4.9 percent of Americans live in districts with winners and losers determined by a margin within five percent. To prevent a tug-of-war that will continue for decades into the future, independent redistricting commissions must be established similar to efforts made in Arizona. Sure, independent redistricting commissions are not utopian, but they are better than districts crafted by political parties guided by self-interest. Political candidates for public office must be held to the standard of support for redesigning district-drawing legislation.
Self interest has pervaded legislative bodies as they prioritize higher odds of reelection over sensible policy; the onus lies with voters to punish politicians and to pressure them into putting fair voting policies on their platform. We are a nation that covets our democracy, so let’s maintain it: Next election cycle, vote for democracy.
Greg M. Miller
The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.