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Call Republican Bluff: Enact Progressive Voter Reform

Tom Hall: This election also showed us a variety of opportunities for voters to make a difference, to ignore party labels and to insist that their elected officials take specific actions.
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Progressive Voter Reform

Former felon Desmond Meade and president of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, from left, arrives with family members at the Supervisor of Elections office, in Orlando, Fla., to register to vote

U.S. voters won on November 3rd, even if it took us until Saturday, or until the last of Rudy Guiliani’s ridiculous lawsuits get thrown out, for us to know the final results. What we do know now is that the election proved real weaknesses in the Democratic Party’s campaigning. 

Look, for a simple example, at the race in Maine. Biden/Harris won a clear, decisive victory over the Donald, while at the same time utterly corrupt, dishonest Donald drooler Susan Collins won re-election over a Democratic challenger who was hobbled by the Democratic Party campaign strategy and by “radicals” who preached absolute contempt for the concerns of local Maine voters. 

The Democratic Party and “radical progressives” combined to disinterest Maine voters in anything but dumping the Donald - which was a popular theme across party lines. They ignored the local and regional concerns of voters, and thus lost the down-ballot races, and left the Senate under Mitch McConnell’s control. 

Maine was not unique. This strategy cost the Democrats seats in their House majority as well as control of the Senate. Tip O’Neill used to preach that “All politics is local.” Even Jerry Falwell learned that lesson. Falwell’s Moral Majority was trained to win elections at the local level; school boards and city councils, to start building local power that would translate, in time, to state and national power. And decades later, we are reaping the harvest of that work.

For those same decades, no one has been able to get “progressives” to accept the concept that Democracy is the politics of involving the “demos” - the population, the common rabble. Since “progressives” “know” so much more than the common rabble, they think that it is OK to ignore the rabble, other than to tell them what they “need” to know, and how they “need” to vote.

No wonder so many of the common rabble, the majority of voters, feel insulted, looked down upon, or ignored by “progressives”. No wonder they feel so little interest in listening to lectures by the very people who proclaim that their interests are too insignificant to be concerned with. 

This election also showed us a variety of opportunities for voters to make a difference, to ignore party labels and to insist that their elected officials take specific actions.

Yet this election also showed us a variety of opportunities for voters to make a difference, to ignore party labels and to insist that their elected officials take specific actions that would lay the groundwork for rapid adjustments to some of our pressing economic problems. 

It is important to remember that a lot of our problems are economic, more than political. Wage disparities for non-white workers and for women of all colors, including white, lead the way. Providing better economic security is an important step toward improving all people’s lives.

 The voters in Florida showed us that this can be done. Even as they rejected the Democrats who ignored them, and voted for the Donald, they also voted for a higher minimum wage. Sure, the wage steps up painfully slowly, unnecessarily slowly. But steps up against the interest of political parties, because the voters made it happen. These are the same voters who, a couple of years ago, voted to restore the voting rights of felons who had served their time. 

These voters, properly motivated could pressure their Congress people, and the new Democratic President, to take other, more meaningful steps. 

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While many people are looking for ways to continue to fight against others, the Republicans have opened a wonderful door to improving the fight against voter suppression. By working voter registration reform, U.S. voters could substantially improve the economic position of millions of poor and middle class voters. And the Republicans are currently screaming for such reform. The Democratic House and President should call the Republicans’ bluff, and demand that both state and federal laws be passed to eliminate voter registration problems and voter suppression systems. 

Ever since election day, Republicans have been screaming about voter fraud. They’ve been claiming that there is too much fraud in voter registration, in keeping dead people on voter rolls, on state systems for mail in voting that vary and allow “massive” fraud. They claim that we need, and they support, laws to correct such problems. 

Let the Squad, or some other truly progressive House members, introduce legislation to set Federal standards for minimum national voting regulation. 

Great! Let the Squad, or some other truly progressive House members, introduce legislation to set Federal standards for minimum national voting regulation, and to provide adequate funding for maintaining proper voter rolls. Maintaining proper voter rolls means not purging legitimate, qualified voters, as much as it means ensuring that dead voters are removed from voting rolls. 

Many states still bar convicted felons from voting, even after they have completed their sentences. A reasonable argument can be made that this is an unconstitutional position. Once a citizen has served criminal penalties, they should be free to return to being a citizen. 

But without having that Constitutional argument, we could simply legislate, Federally, that no one can be disqualified from voting without first having an adjudicated finding of incapacity to vote. Remember the principle that everyone is innocent unless, and until convicted. Thus, every citizen should be able to vote unless and until they have first confronted an adjudicatory proceeding at which the burden of proving incapacity to vote is proven by those who would take it away.

The Constitution says that every accused person shall have the right to confront their accuser and to present evidence to disprove any allegation. So no person should have their right to vote taken from them without complete notice of the evidence for taking that right away, and an opportunity to respond to, to disprove that evidence. 

Voting is as important a right as any other protected by our Constitution. The presumption of innocence should apply with full force to anyone, any system that seeks to deprive any person of the right to vote. Any citizen should have the right to vote until someone proves, to a neutral, fair adjudicatory body that the right has been lost. 

The example presented by the State of Florida after the people - the voters - restored voting rights to post-sentence felons is instructive. After the voters of Florida said they wanted to restore voting rights, the Republican legislature and governor imposed new terms, that all fines and penalties would have to be paid before voting rights would be restored. Then the same Republicans instituted a new system of preventing any citizen from learning what, if any fines and penalties were owed. 

tom hall

With this impossible dilemma, the Republican Party blocked felons from voting. The new system essentially established a presumption that all post-sentence felons were “guilty” of not paying fines and penalties. This was a system in which guilt was presumed, rather than innocence. And the state then refused to provide any access to evidence that could confirm or contradict the “guilty” finding. This is explicitly contrary to our Constitution protections. 

Having lost the election, by a margin that Donald Trump claimed, in 2016, was a “Yuge landslide,” Republicans are now calling for legislation to reform voting laws. Federal laws to enforce “one person - one vote” and to bar poll taxes have stood up to the test of Constitutionality. So laws to protect the Constitutional right to vote, against fraudulent disenfranchisement efforts should also withstand Constitutional challenge. 

Tom Hall

Such laws are being called for by Republicans. Such laws would also reduce the legal expenses of states and local communities for defending discriminatory laws - achieving another Republican goal - reducing wasteful government spending. It is time for the new Democratic administration to reach across the aisle and call the Republicans’ bluff by proposing and supporting such voting reform laws. 

Tom Hall