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Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Defending Our Most Basic Freedom

Long line at polling place
It's one of the most sacred rights you have. They should make it as painless as possible.
-Miami-Dade resident Jonathan Piccolo.

It's not the "right" to own a military assault-style weapon that Piccolo is talking about here, but rather the right from which all our other rights spring. It's our most basic freedom and our most powerful form of liberty. It's the ability to bloodlessly change government and to influence the course of our nation's history. The right to vote is the great equalizer -- no one, no matter how rich or powerful -- has a vote any more powerful than yours. Since the Supreme Court determined that money is speech, they may be able to speak louder than you can, but your vote is still equal to theirs. If you're in line behind an ex-president or a Wall Street tycoon, they get one and you get one. Democracy is the freedom we should guard the most fiercely, because democracy is the way we keep all the other ones and even earn new freedoms. There is no free nation that doesn't allow its citizens to vote. There is no free nation that's a sham democracy with a rigged vote. People without democracy are -- by definition -- not free people. Which is why I always say that the enemies of democracy are the enemies of freedom. There aren't many facts I'm as sure of as that.

Which means there's a right side and a wrong side to a battle shaping up in this country -- and one party is staking out the "enemies of democracy" position. Which would make the other the good guys.

New York Times:

With studies suggesting that long lines at the polls cost Democrats hundreds of thousands of votes in November, party leaders are beginning a push to make voting and voter registration easier, setting up a likely new conflict with Republicans over a deeply polarizing issue.


White House officials have told Congressional leaders that the president plans to press for action on Capitol Hill, and Democrats say they expect him to highlight the issue in his State of the Union address next week. Democrats in the House and Senate have already introduced bills that would require states to provide online voter registration and allow at least 15 days of early voting, among other things.

Fourteen states are also considering whether to expand early voting, including the battlegrounds of Florida, Ohio and Virginia, according to FairVote, a nonprofit group that advocates electoral change. Florida, New York, Texas and Washington are looking at whether to ease registration and establish preregistration for 16- and 17-year-olds.

According to the report, a New York Times/CBS News poll found that in the most recent election cycle, "18 percent of Democrats said they waited at least a half-hour to vote, compared with 11 percent of independents and 9 percent of Republicans." When twice as many Democrats as Republicans face long lines, then we're looking at a rigged vote. And it's easy to dismiss Republican attempts to steal the election as a failure -- after all, Obama won -- but that ignores the fact that more people voted Democrat than Republican in congressional races, yet Republicans still held on to the House of Representatives. In that case, the vote was rigged through gerrymandering -- a fact Republicans actually bragged about -- but a rigged vote still makes for a sham democracy. And a sham democracy means a people who are not entirely free.

While Republican attempts to build a sham democracy through voter ID laws and electoral vote rigging have gotten a lot of attention, these other methods of undermining our most basic freedom seem to have been getting little attention -- despite being more effective in the real world. The GOP may not have been able to steal the presidency, but they managed to steal the House.

"Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote," Barack Obama said in his second inaugural address. And he's right in the way that Jonathan Piccolo is right; it should be as easy as possible. Lines so long that people give up are intentional and every person who has to leave those lines to go back to work or return to their families represents a deliberate erosion of democracy.

The enemies of democracy are the enemies of freedom. We have to fight back against those enemies now, because if they enjoy much more success, they'll make it impossible to fight back later.


[image source]

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