Sunday, August 11, 2013

Getting Votes Right

America's existing 'voting process' is lot flawed, prone to endless litigation famously exemplified by 2000 election and those problems are still not gone completely. It is pathetic to see that for a country like America, folks have to wait for hours to cast a ballot as happened in 2012 election. Uniform voting process all across America is absent because each State has their own jurisdictions in these matters; that constitutionality is given and unlikely to change.

Add to all this mix, a recent verdict of  John Roberts Supreme Court with regards to Voting Rights Act. John Roberts Court asserts that we are no longer in the Civil Rights Era of Mid 20th Century. We are in the Internet Era where political mobilization is instantaneous and intense. The premise of the court that the political process itself will ensure 'fairness' is reasonable. But this is all workable if political interests of competing political parties are aligned properly. When we have one political party heavily dependent on White American Votes, we may not be in a balanced position since one party would have disproportionate interest in suppressing voter turnout with certain groups; all via manipulating voting rules. Knowing all this and particularly racial history of largely confederate states, VRA had an important clause of certain States getting Federal permission before enacting voting process changes. John Roberts court stripped away that provision. Justice Ginsberg was right in bemoaning that aspect of the verdict.

Like fiscal and immigration issues, voting rights have joined the pool of deeply diversionary and polarizing wedge issues in this country. With Roberts Court decision, quite likely Democrats are going to be on the losing end in the short term and they would have to fight this battle at activists / local level. Increased and passionate turn around may help Democrats, but it is not known how much of all that turnout would realize in Mid-Term elections.

With 'political war outbreak' in Congress quite possible, there seems to be no chance any legislative solution can be found for these voting process abuses. But surprisingly Republican Majority Leader in House, Eric Cantor has shown some interest in legislating changes to VRA. On the background of inability of this Congress to do anything worthwhile, passing some reasonable voting rights changes could serve the purpose of showcasing at least some legislative achievements for this 'do nothing Congress'. 

But it will not be easy for Democrats to reinstate exclusionary provisions like only certain states requiring pre-approval before changes. In other words bringing back the provision struck by the court will be almost not possible. However, Democrats can make a counter proposal here - let all 50 states in the union require pre-approval for voting process changes and let the actual process of approval be swift and efficient. The best way to remove racism era vestiges is to treat all states equally and to submit all states to the same standard. No one is taking away state jurisdiction over these matters, states would continue to propose process changes as like today. Political reality is such that California is unlikely to propose anything which would cost voting rights of minority, so why California would worry in getting approval from a federal level body if that arrangement subjects Texas and other states with racial era history to the same process and essentially prevents them from getting away from voter suppression? 

If Republicans do not want Federal Department like Justice Department to get involved; Congress can authorize an intra-state agency which directly reports to Congress and which gives these clearances to changes proposed by states. Or else Congress can empower Federal Election Commission in this regard. Idea is let all 50 states of the union come together to decide and bring uniformity in voting process rather than making racial era history as a burden for certain states. It is true that California and other states did not do anything wrong in the past to loose the freedom of enacting voting process improvements without pre-approval. But there is a larger interest of this union to be served by forfeiting these certain state privileges - current day abuses of voting rights in Texas and other southern states to be prevented. Co-operative model of state interactions which submit all states to the same standard ways could be more palatable to Libertarians in Republican Party rather than allowing 'the competing Federal Power' to usurp State Rights in every aspect.

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