Voting Rights

Senate Votes to Require Political Nonprofits to Reveal Donors

If passed, the bill would reverse a Trump administration policy allowing nonprofits to keep the identity of their donors secret. From the bill’s sponsor, Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.):

“These dark money forces are a threat to our democracy, and they must be reined in. Today’s action sheds more light on the wealthy few who are trying to buy our elections and drown out the voices of regular folks. We must wrestle our country back and continue to bring transparency and accountability back to political campaigns.”


The Great Blunder

In his review of Allan Lichtman’s The Embattled Vote in America: From the Founding to the Present (Harvard: 2018), James Morone wrote in the New York Times September 12, 2018, that this “important book emphasizes the Founders’ great blunder: They failed to enshrine a right to vote in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights.” As a result, Morone reports and Lichtman documents, “Each party gropes for advantage by fiddling with the franchise.”

Lichtman lists the “vital reforms” – he includes abolition of the electoral college, automatic voter registration, national election standards, less partisan voting districts. Morone adds limiting the power of the judiciary to strike down laws and proportional representation for congressional elections.

Neither Lichtman nor Morone, as far as I can tell, points out that the single biggest limitation on the right to vote is that neither party seeks the votes of more than 80% of the eligible populace when it comes to the choice of president. Either the Red or the Blue team concedes to the other a victory in at least 40 states. The unit or winner-take-all rule then allocates all electors to the party that won a plurality in a state basically simply by having its nominee appear on the ballot. This system plainly communicates to most people in the country that their vote does not matter in the choice of the most important political figure on the planet.

This message then discourages would-be voters from showing up. That in turn means that less “fiddling” is required to alter the outcomes of down-ballot races. A huge increase in turn-out everywhere in the country would make fairly small-scale shenanigans less impactful and as a result would minimize their occurrence. Certainly at the least, the “fiddling” would more often be drowned out by the clamor of millions more voting for president in every state, if only states would allocate their electors to the winner of the national vote instead of the winner of the state vote.


No Need To Dismantle

In reviewing George Edwards’ Why the Electoral College is Bad for America  (2004), Jeffrey Cohen of Fordham University concluded: “I do not think the Founders designed the electoral college with egalitarian ends in mind, but that does not mean that, over 200 years after the adoption of the Constitution, we should not promote political equality, even if it means dismantling institutions that undermine political equality.”

Of course the granting of suffrage to former slaves and women and people aged 18 to 21 all promoted “political equality” even if the electoral system denied true equality.

But it’s also worth noting that the Electoral College does not need to be “dismantled.” Any state can choose as electors those from the party slate whose nominee for president has won the most votes cast in the United States. That would make every vote count, or matter, equally.


Brennan Center: Voter Roll Purging Remains High in GA, NC, and FL

The Brennan Center for Justice released a report following up on their analysis of the widespread purges of voter rolls throughout the South leading up to the 2016 election. The report finds that in Florida, North Carolina, and Georgia, the exceptionally high rates of purges has not declined. The rates of purging continue to be alarmingly high in these 3 states when compared to those before the 2006 and 2008 presidential election and others.

In recent two year periods, North Carolina has purged 11.7% of its registered voters from its list, Georgia has purged 10.6%, and Florida over 7%. The timing of the increased purges coincides with the Supreme Court’s Shelby ruling which in 2013 that “struck down a part of the Voting Rights Act that required nine states with a history of racial discrimination to obtain federal approval when altering their election laws.

Would state officials have the same perverse incentives to trim their voting rolls of prior eligible voters if the winner-take-all electoral system were not in practice by all three of these states?


Essential Reading on Democracy: Dr. Carol Anderson’s One Person, One Vote

The concept of “One person, one vote” became a widely articulated core principle of the Constitution when it was first spoken by Chief Justice Earl Warren’s Supreme Court in 1963. In Dr. Carol Anderson of Emory University’s new book One Person, No Vote, the scholar exposes how this fundamental egalitarian principle of Constitutional law and its enforcement by the Civil Rights Act of 1965 has again become violated with shocking impunity throughout the American South. After the Supreme Court’s 2013 Shelby ruling which rolled back key protections of the Act, many states have implemented discriminatory measures which effectively disenfranchise large numbers of black voters. Along with Dr. Anderson’s seminal book White Rage, which chronicled the near-century of disenfranchisement that preceded the Civil Rights Act despite the ratification of the 15th Amendment in 1870, One Person, No Vote is essential reading for all citizens concerned with the resurgent anti-democratic pressures in our society.