Voter suppression, 2020 edition

The ballot goes in the envelope which goes into the mailing envelope

elon-voting-bars-buttonVoter suppression is alive and well in 2020 America. Some of it is systemic, some intentional.

You may recall that the good voters of Florida – I write that without irony – decided that they would do the right thing in 2018. They reinstated the voting rights of felons who had served their time, except for murderers and sex offenders. Constitutional Amendment 4 was passed overwhelmingly, to my surprise.

But wait! The state legislature almost immediately added a provision that if felons owed fines and court costs, they STILL couldn’t vote. To no one’s surprise, many of the felons are poor. So the extra requirement amounts to a poll tax, which is a violation of the 24th Amendment, ratified in 1964.

To make things more complicated, it is also difficult for felons to determine what they owe. The Florida Division of Elections web site says:

Seriously?

If a person is still unsure about fines, fees, costs, and restitution, and the impact upon restoration of voting rights, the person can ask for an advisory opinion from the Florida Division of Elections. Please review section 106.23(2), Florida Statutes, and Florida Administrative Code Rule 1S-2.010 for how to ask for an advisory opinion and what information is required.

Meanwhile, former New York City mayor and rich guy Michael Bloomberg, with others, is trying to clear the financial debt of the freed felons. Naturally, Florida’s attorney general Ashley Moody has an issue.She requested that the FBI and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigate Bloomberg’s efforts, as “potential violations of election laws.”

Bloomberg and his political operation “have raised more than $16 million from supporters and foundations.” The goal is “to pay the court fines and fees for more than 30,000 Black and Latino voters in Florida with felonies, allowing them to vote in the upcoming election.” Ya know, Florida, if you didn’t violate the will of your populace by instituting a poll tax, Mike and his colleagues wouldn’t NEED to pay off the felons’ tabs.

The naked ballot

Pennsylvania’s ‘naked ballots’ are 2020’s hanging chads. “Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court ordered state officials… to throw out mail-in ballots submitted without a required inner ‘secrecy’ envelope in November’s election, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports… Pennsylvania requires voters to place their ballots in an unmarked ‘secrecy’ envelope before placing that inside another mailing envelope.”

With far more people likely to vote by mail in the Keystone State than ever before, this decision literally could decide the presidential election in November. Know also that a total of 16 states are required to provide secrecy sleeves for absentee/mail ballots. That includes New York. Whether those votes will be disregarded without following the correct procedure, I honestly do not know.

The amendments are for voting

the reinstitution of the poll tax

firstvoteIt occurred to me that many of the Constitutional amendments involve voting and elections. I’m excluding the Bill of Rights. If you ignore Amendments 18 and 21, which canceled each other out over prohibition, it’s a clear majority. The first group involves eligibility of voters, the latter, the process.

Amendment 15 (1870) – says the “right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”

But “the promise of the 15th Amendment would not be fully realized for almost a century. Through the use of poll taxes, literacy tests, and other means, Southern states were able to effectively disenfranchise African Americans. It would take the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 before the majority of African Americans in the South were registered to vote.” And the VRA was gutted by SCOTUS in 2013.

Amendment 17 (1913) – removed from state legislatures the power to choose U.S. Senators and gave that power directly to voters in each state. The arguments for it “sounded in the case for direct democracy, and the problem of hung state legislatures. Also, it freed the Senate from the influence of corrupt state legislatures.

Still, some conservatives still argue for its repeal, on the theory that it “would protect states’ rights and reduce the power of the federal government.”

Susan B. Anthony didn’t ask for that pardon

Amendment 19 (1920) – “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”

Amendment 23 (1961) – allows citizens residing in the District of Columbia to vote for presidential electors, who in turn vote in the Electoral College for President and Vice President. Now if they could only get a voting Member of Congress.

Amendment 24 (1964) -outlawed the poll tax as a voting requirement in federal elections. The poll tax exemplified “Jim Crow” laws, developed in the post-Reconstruction South. These rules aimed to disenfranchise black voters and institute segregation.

Then in 1966, SCOTUS ruled in Harper v. Virginia Board of Elections that “poll taxes for ANY level of elections were unconstitutional. It said these violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.”

Yet some would argue – I certainly would – that SCOTUS in 2020 allowed the reinstitution of a poll tax. It “failed to upend a lower court move that is preventing otherwise eligible citizens with felony records from registering to vote if they cannot afford to pay off old court fees and fines.”

Amendment 26 (1971) – The right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age.

Process

Amendment 12 (1804) – if you’re a fan of the musical Hamilton, you may know the Election of 1800. Thomas Jefferson and his vice-presidential running mate Aaron Burr both received an identical number of electoral votes. The amendment stipulates that each elector must cast distinct votes for president and vice president, instead of two votes for president.

Amendment 20 (1933) removed the “excessively long period of time a defeated president or member of Congress would continue to serve after his or her failed bid for reelection.”

Amendment 22 (1951) created a two-term limit on the Presidency. It would not have applied to Harry Truman, who was president at the time of its enactment.

Also

Third Amendment riff – John Mulaney Monologue – SNL (from 3:53 to 6:06)

Hey 19, that’s a woman’s right to vote

19th*

woman's right to vote“The 19th Amendment guarantees American women the right to vote. Achieving this milestone required a lengthy and difficult struggle; victory took decades of agitation.”

In fact, “opposition to woman suffrage in the US predated the Constitutional Convention (1787)… Still, there was opposition to such patriarchal views from the beginning, as when Abigail Adams, wife of John Adams, asked her husband in 1776, as he went to the Continental Congress to adopt the Declaration of Independence, to ‘remember the ladies and be more generous and favourable to them than your ancestors.’ In the scattered places where women could vote in some types of local elections, they began to lose this right in the late 18th century.”

In July 1848… the Seneca Falls Convention launched the women’s rights movement. “The Declaration of Sentiments and Grievances was ratified by the assembly. They also passed 12 resolutions that specifically necessitated equal rights for women including the resolution that proclaimed women’s right to vote.”

A constitutional amendment was first introduced in Congress in 1878. Some suffragists challenged male-only voting laws in the courts. “More public tactics included parades, silent vigils, and hunger strikes. Supporters were heckled, jailed, and sometimes physically abused.” Many Americans found the idea of a woman voting a radical change. It was generally accepted among men that women should be “protected from the evils of politics.”

Wyoming

Interestingly, the struggle was more successful in the western part of the country. It was Wyoming, in 1869, which became the first territory to grant women the right to vote. When it joined the union in 1890, it became the first state to grant female citizens the ballot. Colorado (1893), Utah (1896), Idaho (1896), Washington (1910), and Colorado (1911) followed.

“By 1914, every state west of the Rockies had granted females the right to vote. Kansas was the only state east of the Rockies to accept women’s suffrage. Why the divide? Some historians believe pioneer women were more highly regarded for their role in settling the West. Others suggest that there were fewer women in the West, therefore men valued and respected them more. Either way, New York didn’t grant women the right to vote until 1917.

“On May 21, 1919, the House of Representatives passed the amendment, and two weeks later, the Senate followed. When Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the amendment on August 18, 1920,” the threshold was reached. The amendment was certified on 26 August.

The National Archives is having a virtual commemoration of the centennial of the 19th Amendment. The struggle for women’s suffrage, leading up to and beyond the certification of the 19th Amendment on August 26, 1920.

BTW

In recent Presidential elections, female voters outnumber male voters.

‘Ms. Jacobs! Is that you?!’ AOC’s Twitter reunion with her second-grade teacher.

The 19th*

This Poynter article recaps the 2016 presidential election.

“Hillary Clinton was running for president. Two questions followed Clinton. “Is she electable? Is she likable?

“‘That felt so unfairly narrowly tailored to women candidates,” [Emily] Ramshaw, [then editor-in-chief of The Texas Tribun] said. “That was the moment it first occurred to me that it would be incredible to have a storytelling platform that was by women for women.'”

Launching August 2, “The 19th* is a nonprofit, nonpartisan newsroom reporting on the intersection of gender, politics, and policy. It is funded by a mix of membership, philanthropy, and corporate underwriting. The name says it all, right down the asterisk.”

Vote twice in June 2020: early, often

long waits at polling places are disruptive and disenfranchising

I got to vote twice in the month of June. Legally. Really! The first time was for the school budget (it passed – yay!), the school board, and the library trustees. That vote was scheduled for the middle of May but postponed because of the coronavirus.

Everyone was supposed to get a ballot by mail by the end of May. The documents were due at the local board of education office by June 9. But because some of the local districts were having trouble printing them out, the deadline was extended to June 16. And the really great thing is that there were 10,700 votes cast in Albany, thrice what the average turnout had been in the past five years.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Presidential primary in New York State was scheduled for the end of April but postponed over COVID-19. Then it was canceled because all of the candidates except Joe Biden had dropped out. However, the Presidential primary, now on June 23 – simultaneous with other ballot initiatives – “should still be held, with all qualifying candidates restored to the ballot, a federal judge ruled.”

I HATED the thought that I was going to be disenfranchised. And, not incidentally, we’ve seen a LOT of difficulties with the franchise in places such as Wisconsin and Georgia. The Brennan Center notes that “long waits at polling places are disruptive, disenfranchising, and all too common. Black and Latino voters are especially likely to endure them.”

With less than five months until Election Day, Is the U.S. ready? Kim Wehle, the author of What You Need to Know About Voting, says no. We should have more options for paper ballots. There are often fewer polling places, because of COVID-19, but also the powers that be are targeting minority communities with polling closures.

Here’s to you, EW

I HAVE to vote. People, especially black people, suffered and DIED for the opportunity to cast their ballot. I decided to vote, by mail, for Elizabeth Warren because that’s who I wanted to win. One could make the strategic case for Bernie, who I voted for four years ago.

But I had never voted for a woman for President in the primary. In 1972, Shirley Chisholm failed to get on the ballot in my Congressional district. Since then, I’ve voted for a bunch of guys who never got the nomination such as Fred Harris and Dennis Kucinich.

In the primary, I vote with my heart. In the general election, I vote with my head.

BTW, I don’t think Warren will be the Vice-Presidential nominee. She turned 71 yesterday. If she weren’t running with a guy who will be turning 78 seventeen days after the general election, I think she’d have a better chance. Also, they are both from the Northeast.

I like Stacie Abrams of Georgia. The reason she’s not currently in elected office is that the former secretary of state, Brian Kemp, now the governor, rigged the system. Someone (a black male) also made me wonder if sizism could play a role in whether to choose her.

Of the folks listed here, I’m guessing Kamala Harris or Val Demings or Tammy Duckworth or maybe Susan Rice. Meanwhile, read How To Read Polls In 2020.

Early voting, and the Political Compass

vote in “off-year” elections

Lots of people don’t vote in “off-year” elections, but I always do, because Math. In a local race, my ballot has a much greater impact in a smaller geography, with lesser participation. It’s diminished in a statewide race, such as for governor, US Senator or President, which of course, is a bunch of state races.

For the first time, there is early voting in New York State this year. Here are the times and places in Albany County, and the rest of the state, starting October 26.

Left? Right?

In a conversation about politics on Facebook, someone wondered if I had taken the Political Compass test, or something like it. “I’m referring to ones that compare results to party; or comparable ideology. I’m curious what a guy like you gets from it.”

I’ve certainly taken a similar test, maybe even this very one. As the folks behind it note: “Our weakest point is commercialism, so it was always inevitable that others with those skills would tinker a little around the edges of our basic concept — and even our name — and repackage it as a national issues-based tool for commercial sponsorship for a few weeks during national elections.”

After all, “The Political Compass has been on the internet since 2001… Our essential point is that Left and Right, although far from obsolete, are essentially a measure of economics.

“As political establishments adopt either enthusiastically or reluctantly the prevailing economic orthodoxy — the neo-liberal strain of capitalism — the Left-Right division between mainstream parties becomes increasingly blurred. Instead, party differences tend to be more about identity issues. In the narrowing debate, our social scale is more crucial than ever.

“We believe that, in an age of diminishing ideology, The Political Compass helps a new generation in particular to get a better idea of where they stand politically — and the sort of political company they keep.”

Take the test if you want; it appears to be anonymous, and the responses are not logged. Check out the other pages as well.