The Federal Government Needs to Take Over Elections

My Wednesday column is about an idea that Republicans will totally hate.

This probably won’t go over very well in the southern states where the whiny, pouty threat of secession has been revived yet again, but the federal government needs to take over the regulation and process of voting — and specifically in the states where Republicans have conspired to suppress and disenfranchise minority voters.

Dennis Miller (when he used to be reasonable) once said, “States can’t pave fucking roads.” In other words, if they can’t handle the simple task of applying new macadam over cracks and potholes, then why are the states still running our most sacred civic event? The Republican-controlled states have especially abused the privilege by rolling back early voting and adding nonsensical voter ID laws. This year, they’ve proved themselves entirely incapable of conducting themselves on the level and have, instead, opted to turn voting laws into self-serving weapons in service of the Republican Party, rather than making sure everyone regardless of ethnic background can conveniently cast a vote with the same ease of use as a fast food drive-thru.

How do we know they’ve been nefarious about voting? Jim Greer, the former chairman of the Republican Party in Florida, said so. [continue reading…]

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  • Draxiar

    You’ve surgically targeted questions/solutions that have been lingering in my head for years. Thank you for that!

    Ever since the debacle of 2000 with hanging chads and such I’ve wondered why it is elections aren’t held to national standards. I agree that voting methods and procedures should be standardized through the country and non partisan at that. The very idea that voting machine companies are owned by partisan players is dubious at best. Granted there may be no fraud perpetrated from behind the scenes but why risk it? Remove the doubt and opportunity for entirely…or at least mostly.

    • http://drangedinaz.wordpress.com/ IrishGrrrl

      While I agree with Bob on this issue, don’t you think this will only inflame the already paranoid right that thinks the entire Federal Government is rigged? That’s why Paulites and Tea Party members want everything to go back to the States–so they can keep a closer eye and in the end control the outcomes. They’d go into violent paroxysms if we made a move to nationalize standards for elections. This could be the kind of thing that pushes them over the edge.

      Also a point not addressed by Bob is the Constitutional authority granted to the states to handle elections for Congress and only grants “oversight” by Congress (Article I, Sec 4). So there could be a very legal and drawn out battle as to how to define “oversight”. The Presidential election and electoral college is mentioned in Article II and doesn’t say anything more than the “electors will meet in their respective states” so there is wiggle room there. With the current make up of SCOTUS, I am thinking the Federal Government would lose what little power it does have–unless we wait for Scalia to retire/die (either way I’m doing a jig the day it happens).

      Finally, Bob didn’t mention a national ID. Would such a thing be necessary with nationalized elections, particularly if the states are being such dicks about giving out driver’s licenses? Besides, driver’s licenses aren’t really proof of citizenship. We have the Social Security number, but again, not proof of citizenship….you know how this debate goes….. So if we do need a national ID then this would be another huge can of worms when it comes to conservative paranoia.

      I guess I’m looking at the bigger strategic picture. I’m wondering how much we have to cater to the right’s paranoia. It’s exhausting to counter it 24/7 but what other choice do we have? But if we need to pick our battles over the next four years, which I believe we do, do we let their insanity and the degree to which they will lose their shpadoinkle on an issue affect whether we decide to commit to it? Idealistic me says “Hell, no!” Pragmatic me says, “Yeah, probably.” And the President falls firmly on the Pragmatic side of things.

  • bphoon

    What you’re saying applies across the nation, so as you say, these changes need to be enacted nationwide rather than just targeting specific states or areas. Here in Kansas, where the author of model Voter ID legislation Kris Kobach is SoS, there were exactly seven (7) cases of voter fraud prosecuted in the 13 years prior to our Voter ID law being enacted. Of those seven (7), zero (0) were for in-person voter fraud and four (4) resulted in conviction. This is in a state that casts an average of 1.5 million votes each presidential cycle.

    By the way, Kobach is also an author of the most onerous anti-immigration laws in the country, in Arizona and Alabama.

    I support all the proposals you put forth. In addition, since the offices of President and Vice-President are the only two truly national offices in our government, they should be elected by direct popular vote. The Electoral College has outlived its usefulness and should be abolished. The House of Representatives, of course, would still have a role but only if the popular vote results in a tie.

    All of your proposals as well as the abolition of the Electoral College could be enacted in one Constitutional amendment. In the meantime, federal legislation could be enacted to deal with specific provisions of election law that need to change before we can get an amendment ratified.

  • D_C_Wilson

    The thing is, in most of the country, the states aren’t the ones running the elections. They’re run at the county and city level and if there’s any level of government more inept and corrupt than the states, it’s the local yokels.

    But I could not agree more with you. The federal government should establish a national standard for ballots in all presidential elections.

    I was listening to NPR the other day and they had a caller from Brazil, a large country with less wealth than the US. They have a national standard for ballots and never have people waiting for five hours to cast a vote. If Brazil can do it, you can’t tell me that we can’t.

    The republicans, of course, will oppose this because they see the long lines and cumbersome registration process as a feature, not a bug.