Sunday, October 28, 2012

Think Voting Is A Right? Think Again

With the widespread efforts by Republicans in this election cycle to deny the vote to Democratic constituencies with their nefarious voter i.d. laws and massive purges of voter rolls, it's been said that our voting rights are being taken away. I've said what Republicans are doing is "cheating."

But in the strict legal sense it's not, according to the US Supreme Court. The court's opinion in Bush v Gore after the disputed 2000 presidential election was that “the individual citizen has no federal constitutional right to vote [for presidential electors].”

A few months later the court affirmed that ruling in saying that residents of Washington DD have no right to vote in presidential elections. The constitution  “does not protect the right of all citizens to vote, but rather the right of all qualified citizens to vote,” the court said.

And it's the states that decide who is "qualified" to vote. That's why Republican controlled state legislatures have been able to deny the vote to so many people this election cycle.

Bush v Gore, recall, came after the 2000 election between Al Gore and George W Bush was decided in Florida, where tens of thousands of likely Gore voters had been purged from the voting rolls in a state where Bush's brother happened to be the governor. In its ruling on the dispute the Supreme Court said, well, fine, those voters may have been purged, but they have no legal recourse because voting isn't a constitutionally protected right.

States and localities decide who gets to vote, and as long as it can't be proven that the state or locality isn't discriminating against a particular group in deciding who can vote, they are free to make up their own rules for voting.

With the Supreme Court's "Citizen's United" ruling allowing unlimited money to be spent on elections by anyone who has money, there has been a move to amend the constitution to overturn Citizens United, and the concept of corporate personhood on which the ruling relies. One of the clearinghouses for this movement is the web site Reclaim Democracy.

The story about voting rights I outline here is on a back page at Reclaim Democracy. Perhaps it should be the main issue. I think so. How can we pretend to have a democracy when the right to vote can be snatched away as easily as Republicans did it in Florida in 2000 and are doing it now in every state they control?

As I have said been saying, Republicans have a huge demographic problem. The constituencies they rely on for their votes are becoming a smaller and smaller share of the US population.

But the real "demographic problem" is for Anglos in general. In a few decades, a few short years, Anglos will begin to see their position of privilege disappear, and most of them don't even realize the benefits of being a member of the dominant social group. They don't know the advantages in employment it gives them, the advantages in finding housing, credit, and all kinds of other things. They have never handed in an employment application and been told "We'll be in touch," while the application is marked with a checkmark in the corner and put in a separate pile.

I've had a couple people here in New Mexico, Hispanic people, tell me that New Mexico is different. They talk about New Mexico almost like it's some kind of oasis of interracial harmony. It could be. At least among the elite. On the street I see a somewhat different situation, the same one that holds sway in the country at large. This is the United States of America, after all. This is the human species.

I don't intend to go into that here. It wouldn't convince anyone one way or the other. People have their own life experiences to go by. People who live in this country know what it's capable of, know the highs and lows human nature is capable of.

But when Anglos in general begin to realize what being a minority means to them, when they see themselves losing the benefits that have always accrued to them naturally because of that part of human nature that unconsciously leads people to take care of their own, and that they never knew directed a lot of their own behavior, look for a lot of now benevolent Liberals to change their tune about "diversity," about equal rights for all, and look for the assault on things we take for granted, like our assumed right to vote, to accelerate. The time to ensure that voting is a constitutionally protected right is now.


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