11 to Go: The Right to Vote Should Be Sacred to All

Given that every citizen in this country has the inherent right to vote in every election, it has always puzzled me why everyone has to be registered to do so. It makes no sense. You should have to register to carry a gun, but a vote isn’t as lethal as a gun. And yes, a few people are ineligible to vote, but usually, that means convicted felons, and there aren’t too many of those around. And non-citizens know not to vote and they are obviously not going to risk deportation to cast one vote illegally. For many years, we managed to allow virtually everyone to vote and voter fraud was almost non-existent. It still is. In fact, in a comprehensive study of all elections from 2000–2014, researchers found 31 credible cases of voter fraud out of more than one BILLION votes cast. (Source)

Why wouldn’t it be uncommon? It’s a stupid crime, not entirely unlike robbing a bingo hall at gunpoint and only taking the bingo cards. It’s a truly stupid crime that brings a lot of risk for little or no reward, especially in a country with a population of 320 million. Who would risk a fine, jail time and a criminal record to get an extra vote, after all? What does one get from voting an extra time or two, anyway? Since there are hundreds of thousands of potential voters in any congressional district unless someone could set up a “voting ring” and send thousands of voters into vote a couple dozen or more times each. Consider the logistics; the cost of gas to get each voter from precinct to precinct, the ability to predict who won’t show up to vote and the ability to assume their identity. Also, consider the reality that precincts are very local and most voters are from no more than a mile away, which means there is a good chance the poll workers will recognize the name you’re using and know the fraudulent voter is, well, fraudulent. You would have to know the name and address of each voter you plan to vote for, and you risk jail time if someone in that precinct happens to know you’re not the person who lives at that address. And if that person shows up to vote, and THEN shows their ID, the jig is up and your attempt to steal a vote is worthless.

Again, it’s a stupid law that makes no sense to pursue. A century and a half ago, voting multiple times may have been a good idea, but in a nation of 320 million and with some states having populations of as many as 20–30 million, there is little to nothing to gain from it these days. So, why is there still such a thing as voter registration anymore? In 2018, voter registration makes no sense. I mean, some states prohibit convicted felons to have voting privileges until they clear some hurdles, but they should be easy to track, especially at the district and precinct level. You can just place lists of ineligible voters in each precinct and the problem is solved. If there is a problem. Given that half of all voters have been staying home, and there is little for a convicted felon to gain by taking the risk to vote illegally, that probably isn’t a rash of voting felons out there, either.

This is 2018. Our computers, tablets and phones all know who we are and tech companies also know us, what we look like, where we live and who our friends are. Likewise, companies of all sizes and types seem able to track who we are, where we go and what we do. In this day and age, there is no reason we have to register voters. And there is certainly no reason in at all why every voter must be required to show a specified picture ID. While some seem paranoid that someone might try to vote in their place, the fact is, it never happens. If you want to show ID, fine; but why should you have to? There is only one legitimate purpose for Voter ID laws and it’s to create a physical barrier to voting. Keep in mind; the way our system is supposed to work is, the government has to prove your not eligible to vote; you do not have to prove you are. And forcing everyone to show an ID means forcing you to prove you’re not committing a crime, which is against the principles of our democracy. And once again, there is no voter fraud because it’s a ridiculous crime with little or no benefit.

And Republicans don’t just stop at Voter ID laws, either. They have been pushing for even greater restrictions, like requiring your official ID have a street address and not a Post Office Box, to prevent Native Americans and others from voting. (I’m looking at you, North Dakota.) Now on the one hand, I give North Dakota credit for eliminating voter registrations. However, their voter ID laws now amount to forcing their citizens to prove they’re not breaking the law, and doing so in an arbitrary way. Having a street address doesn’t prove citizenship and if a lack of a street address disenfranchises even a single vote, they are taking away people’s rights, which we should be taking more seriously. These laws don’t protect anyone’s rights; their sole purpose is to take that right away from people who might vote for a Democrat.

Even if you could make a case for protection, protection from what? A photo ID is not a talisman that guarantees citizenship, either. It was 1978 before I had a driver license with a picture on it, so people somehow managed to vote for about 200 years without any sort of picture ID, and the system managed to work just fine. There is simply no reason to force citizens who show up to the polls to vote to have to show identification, except to deny the vote to those who can’t produce one. There is no other reason.

A number of states have started to implement vote-by-mail systems, to make voting easier for people, while also producing a paper trail. It’s a funny thing, too; in those states, turnout is higher and more people vote, which is a good thing for all but modern Republicans. And now, the state of Oregon is blazing trails as the first state to automatically register everyone and require those who don’t want to vote to opt out. If they don’t opt out, everyone in Oregon will automatically receive a mail-in ballot approximately three weeks before any election. That means any election; not just the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November, but every primary, every special election, and every proposition election. If there is something to vote on, every voter will be able to participate. No long lines, no electronic voting machines, and a paper trail with every vote. I’m sure someone will try to figure out a way to cheat, but it’ll be much more difficult.

Congratulations to Oregon. And all other states should follow this lead. The vote is a right, not a privilege, and it’s time we all started treating it like that. In every state, it should be against the law for ANY politician to remove a voter from the rolls for any reason other than that voter’s own personal request. All states should also consider allowing convicted felons to vote, once they have completed their sentence. And there should be no registration required; any citizen who wants to vote should be able to vote, even if they don’t decide to until Election Day. It’s our right, after all, and no good purpose is served to force us to fill out a form a month or more before the election and have to deal with a bureaucracy to be “eligible.”

It’s time for a federal law that takes the Voting Rights Act a step further. Everyone should have the right to vote in all elections, without restriction, and no state or local authority should be able to abridge that right without due process. In other words, it should be assumed that we all have the right to vote, until the state proves otherwise. Our most sacred right is the right to participate in the democracy and it’s time we stopped allowing politicians to infringe on that right. Period.

Originally published at .