In 2016, nearly half of eligible voters in these United States of America opted not to participate in the process. Lack of faith in the process, lack of faith in candidates, and an epidemic of laziness have perpetuated America’s nasty habit of electing politicians who don’t serve the public’s best interest for far too many years.
Furthermore, politicians have worked very hard to make voting as difficult as possible, with both parties trying to purge voter registrations in severely anti-democratic fashion. The Democrats purge leftists from participating in their primaries and the Republicans purge poor people and people of color from being able to vote in general elections. And like so many issues of comfort and privilege, those privileged enough to vote easily aren’t using their privilege for the benefit of those lacking that privilege.
The most legitimate excuse for not voting is the belief that electronic voting machines undermine the will of the people, are not secure, and are a method for those in power to control an election’s income. There has been plenty of great journalism done tying these machine manufacturers to political dynasties. Voting machine owners have admitted to intentionally leaving back-doors in their machines for years. Since the code is proprietary instead of open-source and security upgrades are rare if even existent, there’s not much I can write to defend handing democracy over to Sky-Net. However, apathy and non-participation is the least effective way to get rid of these types of voting machines. Activism on the local level and affecting change through your locally elected officials and local Board of Elections to abandon these types of machines are the only way to rid ourselves of them. Gather petitions and start a ballot initiative to ban them in your area, but staying home isn’t changing anything.
The ease-of-voting debate generally takes two sides because of the lack of faith in voting machines. While some want to see even-less-secure yet convenience-based voting, like mail-in; others want as simple-as-possible paper ballots to be the norm. I personally advocate for a hybrid. I like how states like Colorado handle it, issuing every registered voter a paper ballot, eligible for early voting, with drop-off availability. Paper ballots, with paper-trail count accountability, are the only responsible way to handle democratic voting. Cloaked machine process is anti-democratic, irresponsible, and shady as f*ck. There is a reason that many countries won’t even allow electronic voting machines
On-the-flip, we desperately need a new Voting Rights Act, which protects all citizens and their right to vote. Increasingly, restrictive voter ID laws and other forms of discrimination are making it harder for everyday citizens to participate in the electoral process. Automatic voter registration should be the norm, with the only thing a voter needs to prove being changes of address from one district to another. Connecting vote access to the DMV is fine for making changes to a registration or address, but requiring people who cannot afford a state-issued license alienates our most voiceless citizens, the poor, from participating in their government. Voter ID laws are nothing short of immoral and discriminatory. The only purging of voter registrations that should ever happen is that death certificates could be shared with Boards of Elections, which could also share with each other when someone changes their voting address. This is the sort of technology which should be implemented in voting, not secret voting machines.
Access to voting is the scandal in these United States, not the GOP fear-mongering of voter fraud. Every study and report on voter fraud from a reputable source comes up with the same verdict: voter fraud is near non-existent. Instead, we need to focus our energies into making voting MORE accessible and stopping voter registration purges by political operatives in power, as we’ve seen this election season in Georgia and in Florida.
Inspiring people to vote is the hardest of this work. A majority of us don’t identify with a political party anymore, even if registered to one. Though there are plenty of smaller third parties, the duopoly has a stranglehold on our ballots and our choices. A large number of Americans don’t see much difference between the two parties, and feel it’s all a puppet show to perpetuate oligarchy anyhow.
I can’t argue against that. What I would argue is that the issue most Americans agree on (as many as 85% of us in some polls), Campaign Finance Reform, can fix our broken system. By removing the financial control over candidates and parties, we can see more candidates who aren’t beholden to working against the interests of the citizenry on behalf of the elite and corporate donors. We can see more viable third parties. We can see states experiment with things like ranked choice voting. We can peel off the unconstitutional power over elections that the two parties wield. Supporting candidates that advocate for strong campaign finance reform is of utmost importance.
Supporting candidates that want to reform their parties is also important. Over the last four years, a new progressive front has been challenging the Democratic party in both rules and in support for the issues most Americans agree on: providing universal healthcare, a minimum wage on par with cost of living, saving the planet from environmental destruction and more. I pray daily the Republican party sees the same sort of grassroots movement, because frankly, these aren’t partisan issues, and just as the Democrats need to have their attachment to Wall Street snipped away, Republicans need a restraining order from the racists and fascists running their show.
None of this work gets done via apathy. Democracy is a full-contact sport. Too many of our players are being benched by restrictive voting laws. If you’re allowed on the field, you need to participate.
Living in New York State, I get off pretty easy with the ethical dilemma of “lesser of two evils” voting. Former Trump attorney and current governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo will win his reelection bid without me having to worry about his far-right extremist GOP counter-candidate. I’m free to hold on to a piece of my soul and vote for the Green Party candidate with no chance of winning, while voting on all sorts of other races that desperately need my vote. I understand the argument of “voting for the lesser of two evils is still voting for evil.” I embrace it. I’ve preached it. However, in an era of a global rise of fascism, with fascists holding office in these United States, stopping the greater evil has to be our rallying cry this Tuesday and moving forward. It’s far easier to reform a political party than to stop the fascists once they seize power. We do need to prioritize.
Finally, one of the areas stopping people eligible to vote from doing so, that we rarely discuss, is that they just don’t have access to the polls. Some of that is pretty shady because in the last few years we’ve seen partisan election officials close polling places and move them last minute. We also vote on a work-day, which in today’s American economy discriminates against the working class from participation. Election Day needs to be a Federal holiday. Better yet, implement early voting everywhere so people can participate on their own schedule. However, there are also people with disabilities, elderly people and other types of shut-ins that just can’t get to polling places. The less apathetic of us can make a huge difference here. Volunteer to get people to the polls if you can. Drive as many folks as you can. If you havee the privilege of being able to take the day off, do so to benefit as many others as you can, and get those folks to the polls. Call your local office of the aging, or like program and see if they know of anyone who needs access to vote. Do what you can to increase voter turnout. The elected class are doing everything they can to manipulate who gets to vote and who doesn’t. It’s up to the electorate to demand a more fair, accessible and just electoral process.
That’s how I’d fix voting, if given the opportunity to do so.