There are votes and there are votes that count

A couple of events occurred last week that galvanized my concern for democracy in our country. They impede our essential right that each of our votes is important and it should be made as easy as possible for us to cast them. Yet, after last week, it is apparent that all of our votes are not important and they certainly are not equal. We have been evolving toward this, but American democracy is up for sale and it goes to the highest bidder. Unless you have a lot of money, your voice does not really count that much. If your call as a constituent is answered, it will only be after your legislator takes a call from someone across the country that funded his or her campaign.

Last week, our Supreme Court ruled on a case called McCutcheon vs. the Federal Election Commission. In essence, the 5 to 4 ruling said it was OK for someone to spread his or her money around and fund as many candidates as possible. Apparently, the previous rule was infringing on the freedom of speech of wealthy people to have a stake in candidates around the country. When added to one of the worst rulings ever made by our Supreme Court in the infamous Citizens United case, people with money and influence can attempt to buy as many elections as possible. The latter ruling on top of previous ones allows unlimited funding of Super PACs to fund advertisements to discredit an opponent of one they favor. These rulings make it easier for an oligarchy to rule our country and state. My friend Barney has a great post on this topic from last week: http://mountainperspective.wordpress.com/2014/04/page/2/

That was only the beginning of the week’s events. Various states like mine in North Carolina (NC) have put forth similar, restrictive voter suppression laws under the guise of Voter ID. A few months ago, a less suppressive law than the one in NC was found unconstitutional in Pennsylvania. The NC law is being sued for unconstitutionality by four separate entities with multiple parts of the law designed to suppress votes of the elderly, African-Americans and college students. This independent voter will not be surprised to see it declared as such when the ruling is made. In fact, the NC Attorney General told the legislature that this law was unconstitutional before it was passed.

These Voter ID Laws were passed to combat the illusion of rampant voter fraud. As former Secretary of State Colin Powell noted in a speech in Raleigh there is no evidence of rampant voter fraud. Our rampant voting problem in this country is not enough people voting. But, last week in an effort to show there is rampant voter fraud, a study was done and found 765 cases of potential dual state voting cases in the last presidential election in NC. This should be looked into as to why this happened, but let’s put things in perspective and look at the numbers. In the 2012 presidential election, North Carolinians cast 4,499,039 votes. If you divide 765 by 4,499,039 you get a result of .017% (less than 2/100th of a percent). This very low percentage would support Mr. Powell’s assertion that we do not have rampant voter fraud.

So, what should we do about all of this? First, we should mute every campaign commercial we can. Just don’t listen to what the funders are selling. In the last Presidential campaign, FactCheck.org said only 1 out of 3 commercials for Romney was fully correct and 1 out of 2 for Obama. So, with those percentages, you are more informed by not watching. Second, we should get informed about the candidates and not the party they represent. Read and watch reputable news sources and not those who will have a biased spin on the news or cover the game of politics and not the issues. The latter especially includes Fox News and MSNBC which provide a version of the news that is spun to fit the demographics of viewers.

Third, let’s advocate common sense voter laws. Let’s start with passing bi-partisan redistricting laws designed to prevent gerrymandering. Gerrymandering is harmful to governance and it hurts both parties, as we end up with unopposed candidates and makes it easier for politicians who are the party fringes to get elected. Next, let’s repeal all Voter ID Laws like the one in NC, before they are ruled unconstitutional; that will save legal fees and let us replace them with more common sense laws to promote voting. A new Voter law should include automatic runoff voting, which means you rank your candidates, so when a runoff is needed, the system can do a runoff election without another vote. This is far cheaper and runoff elections often vote in a candidate with fewer than 10% of the voters making it to the polls. Let’s also change how we call on people for jury duty. This is an impediment to people signing up for voting. And, let’s repeal any laws that make it easier to influence elections of judges. The change made last year in NC, e.g., is akin to the horrible Supreme Court decisions above as it gives people with money too much influence over judges.

Democracy is under fire. We need to do what we can to make all of our votes count. The above is a start. But, don’t just believe me, I would encourage you to watch Bill Moyers’ documentary from earlier this year called “State of Conflict – North Carolina” to get a better sense of how our democracy has been polluted in my state as an example of what can and is happening. http://billmoyers.com/episode/full-show-state-of-conflict-north-carolina/

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15 thoughts on “There are votes and there are votes that count

  1. There is not much to *like* in your post, BTG, except the ethos captured by your words. With the recent declarations made by the Supreme Court and also various states I wonder, however, how long will it be before reports such as yours will not be allowed to be publicly addressed without some form of censorship.

    • Thanks Raye. It is sobering. Please check out Leonard Pitts’ national column that was in my paper today called “Wake up, people, to the danger.” It is along these same lines. He notes a group in San Luis Obispo, CA who is promoting a national initiative called “Citizens Congress 2014” which started with a wide group of varied people, but is getting some national support. Here is a link: http://www.citizenscongress2014.org/home.html

    • On Jan 17, 2014 the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that bloggers are entitled to the same protections as journalists. Among the cases cited for their opinion was the Supreme Court ruling on Citizens United which broadened the view of free speech.

      Everyone is subject to some form of “censorship” in communication already and can’t just post whatever they want. 🙂

      • All the more reason for us to be diligent with sources and data. Apparently, it has been less an intrusion on some news sources who are inclined to play editorial comments as news. Thanks for comments. BTG

  2. When a member of congress declares his love and support of democracy-run like hell! they are lying as a cover up for their taking money, and selling their support for the likes of the McCutcheon and other mega-mllionaires who are buying this country. I saw another study that said over a 10 year period leading up to 2012, there were 7 verified cases of voter fraud. As someone wrote a while back, just what is to be gained by someone selling or stealing an identity to vote??? No one asks that question, and republican legislators could not answer it.

    Great post, and thanks for the shout out.

    • Thanks Barney. As you know and have written about, the greater fraud is someone buying an election. Maybe if Sheldon Adelson spends $93 million more on another losing candidate, he may questions his own investment decisions. How close are you to San Luis Obsispo?

      By the way, off topic, but only a little, the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau that gets a lot of crap from GOP and bankers just fined Bank of America $783 million for fraudulent marketing practices in their credit card business. $738 million is restitution to those who were infringed on, being sold products and services without their permission. I want someone who does not favor this group to tell me why they don’t like it?

      • It’s about 2 1/2 hour drive to SLO. That’s a great place to visit!

        I just read about the BAC settlement. It’s ironic how Warren’s defeat to head the consumer bureau has won us twice the strength. Once as her being an incredible senator, and the new consumer bureau turning out so strong!!

        I don’t think the GOP considers that a win!

      • I would agree, but their constituents should. I want to dig further and tally their settlements, but the significant lion’s share go to the defrauded. I recall eighteen months ago the totals were over $500 million, so they are at a bare minimum over $1.2 Billion of penalizing wrong doers.

  3. I, and most people I know, watch some political commercials. Even though they might not contain fully correct information they are informative. It also helps to know what issues and information might be brought up in discussions. The same goes for non-political commercials. For example the fine print on one soup commercial says to consult your doctor before starting any diet, but to contact them for everything else.

    • Roseylinn, it does take a keener eye who is more in the know to make the commercials more understandable and to know when smoke is being blown. Example – one of the senate candidates against Kay Hagan touts she fought our “common sense Voter ID Bill” in NC. To the uninformed, that would be a negative toward Kay Hagan. Yet, as noted in my post, that bill is being sued for unconstitutionality by four organizations and should be declared as such by a judge. So, it is actually a badge of honor. Thanks for your comments. They are always welcome and well thought out. BTG

  4. Great blog post! The problem, as I see it, is that the constitution fails to mention corporations at all or speak about PACs. Thus, despite the fact that the Founders were worried about the abuse of power above all else, they failed to anticipate the power of excessive wealth and giant corporations. The move to have a constitutional amendment rescinding the “Citizens United” ruling is a step in the right direction — as are your suggestions. But in the end our democracy certainly does seem to have turned out to be an oligarchy within the past couple of years at the very least.

    • Hugh, I agree. I think the power brokers have always been present, but now the license to influence is approved by the Supreme Court and made easier with cost of getting elected. So, they don’t have to hide in the shadows. Pitts’ editorial noted that GOP candidates had to go to Las Vegas to kiss the ring of Sheldon Adelson. That is not the kind of vetting of a candidate which is constructive. Thanks for your comments. BTG

  5. It’s stunning how we, as a nation, seem to just roll over and accept being kicked down the hill the way we do. The voter registration laws are so revisionist, I can’t believe it. And the campaign finance rulings? Well, like you say, follow the money. It buys power.

    • Linda, I had some time to kill this afternoon while in Greensboro, NC. They have a terrific Civil Rights Museum which incorporates and surrounds the Woolworth counter where the sit ins started. It is a well done museum of the overall struggle, with the Greensboro four students playing a part. A key part of the exhibit is the Jim Crow voter restrictions. What my state and others have done to reestablish some of these rules under the guise of a fictitious rampant voter fraud problem is truly shameful.

      We need folks to call so called leaders on the carpet for poor actions. We need to tell the Supreme Court that they have ruled poorly And, then we need to tell them again. I have sent three emails to select member of the NC General Assembly after the Voter ID Law was passed and two before they did it. I have had two series of emails with the one of its authors where I was name called, yet I kept thanking him for his response, remaining civil and asking for his data. I told a friend about the emails and said it is ironic that the state senator was the one being uncivil calling me names and without information to share.

      We are better than this. Please feel free to share with others and encourage whatever activism they feel comfortable with. I know you are a kindred spirit, so please know that this reply is addressed to anyone who chooses to read it. After today’s visit to the Civil Rights museum, I felt shamed and embarrassed for our so called leaders who feel it is OK to sell our democracy and squelch voices who may disagree with them.

      Many thanks for your support, BTG

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