The real voter fraud

Living in a state that has had its voter ID law overturned for unconstitutional discrimination along with several attempts at gerrymandered districts, I have witnessed first hand Jim Crow-like voter suppression. In fact, the latest ruling against gerrymandering happened just two months ago, too late to change the districts for the 2018 election.

To avoid the obvious point, this is cheating. Both sides have cheated in the past, but using the wording of an appellate judge on the North Carolina GOP voter ID law, it was a “precision-like” effort to discriminate.

Sadly, the states of Georgia and North Dakota are witnessing orchestrated attempts to suppress votes. What makes the Georgia suppression efforts targeting African-American voters so inappropriate is the man running for Governor, Brian Kemp, oversees the voting process as Secretary of State. He is running against a Black female Democratic candidate, so this is blatant cheating and highly unethical.

In North Dakota, Native Americans are being discriminated against. Many use a PO Box for mail purposes, as their rural homes often do not have a physical address. So, a voting law was passed requiring the use of a street address or you have to go through more hoops to vote. The Native Americans tend to favor Democrats. Again, to state the obvious, this is cheating.

These laws are designed to address a fairly non-existent problem. Yet, the orchestrated public relation efforts of their advocates paints a much overstated problem. The laws tend to go beyond an innocuous sounding voter ID issue, which is discriminatory by itself. The laws tend to include other 21st century versions of Jim Crow efforts to make voting harder for people of color. Ironically, the one area that sees a more than a trace voting fraud is absentee voting by mail. Since this method has tended to favor Republican voters, it tends not to get included in the voter ID laws.

I am Independent voter who was a Democrat as a young adult and Republican as an older one. A key reason I left the GOP was a tendency by the party and its biased news support to make things up, far more than the Democrats. This obfuscation of the truth has actually gotten much worse with the current US President. So, from my vantage point, the only voter fraud I see is being perpetuated by the Republican Party.

Good governance is needed to protect us from cheating

In our country, it is OK that people disagree. It is OK for legislators to disagree and hold opinions that I do not find appropriate. That is a greatness of our government construct. What I find far less appealing is when legislators cut corners on parliamentary procedures or do not do the right thing when a conflict of interest appears to gain advantage. This short changes the process and makes us less as a result. This is cheating, no matter how you slice it. I will not be speaking about the greater level of cheating and that is following the preferences of wealthy donors and lobbyists. Nor will I address gerrymandering, which puts in office legislators with strident views and insulates them in future elections. Both of these would require their own posts.

Three times in the past year, I have read about or seen a replay of voice votes being conducted by Committee Chairs in the North Carolina General Assembly and US Congress. Voice votes are when the Chair says all in favor say “yes” and all against say “no.” These votes are usually held when they know the outcome will be unanimous or near unanimous. Yet, on these three occasions the Chair, who was in favor of the action, took such a vote on a contentious matter which would have a close vote.

In two of the cases, it was clear the “no’s” won and several folks in the same political party as the Chair said so, but the Chair was predisposed and heard “yes.” When others cried foul, their complaints were not heeded. In the third vote in an US Congressional Committee, the vote followed a very well done impassioned speech trying to give farmers the right to voice their concerns without repercussion against the industry. The industry won in a voice vote, a vote that sounded fairly close and should have warranted a roll call vote. It should be noted that the two votes noted above in NC favored a long-standing industry position.

To further illustrate, we had a former Speaker of the House in NC who led two unsavory votes. On the first, when a legislator realized she had voted wrong, she approached the Speaker to change her vote. Her request was denied and the vote the Speaker favored passed by one. On the second, the Speaker had a tough budget vote. When it passed midnight, he sent everyone home, but told his party to stay close by. He then recalled legislators to the chamber and had a quorum, but many “no” voters were already headed home to their districts and could not return. The budget passed.*

Not to be outdone, we had a former state legislator, who is on record to have participated in two votes where he had a known conflict of interest. He actually had a financial interest in the decision. He did not recuse himself which would have been the ethical thing to do. This is not restricted to NC, where I have seen footage of a Texas legislator who was voting to protect pay-day lenders, while being a marketing person for a pay-day lender. He was admonished on the floor, but that did not stop him from casting his vote.

I recognize fully we have huge problems with money in politics, voter restrictive laws and gerrymandered districts. The money means that the legislator has to win for their funders. The voter restrictive laws and gerrymandering make it easier for them to win an office and stay there. Yet, the money should not permit blatant cheating like the above examples. In each case I mentioned, an industry who had funded a legislator – fossil fuel industry, poultry processing industry, real estate developer industry and pay-day lending industry – each had sway over this politician or the politician had a personal conflict of interest in a vote.

I want to tie these things together, as when you see legislators cheat with parliamentary procedures, it is far worse than Tom Brady’s “Deflategate” cheating with deflated footballs. Brady cheated and is being punished after the fact and his saying that everyone does it is a child’s answer. The greater crimes are noted above.  It is people who have been funded to make votes happen in the favor of the funders. So, we should not say “boys will be boys,” and say everyone does it. We should ask pointedly, why did you cheat like that and who benefits the most? The act of cheating should give you pause about the veracity of the cheater’s position.

* It should be noted we had a previous NC Speaker who accepted a bribe and a previous Governor who got caught up in a real estate boondoggle. So, we have some more tangible cheating issues, but the focus on this post is parliamentary process being short changed to curry favor.

Reality is scarier than fiction this Friday the 13th

I have never been a big fan of gory horror movies, although I did enjoy Frankenstein and Dracula when I was little. And, The Exorcist and The Omen did cause some chills and entertainment. However, what is most scary to me are stories that could happen or did happen in real life. With that in mind this Friday 13th, the most scary things that could happen are very real and that is being led down poor paths by our leaders.

In no particular order:

– ISIS is scary, but what is most scary to me is our leaders possibly taking their bait and introducing US ground troops. That is precisely what ISIS wants. We have reached a tipping point and that is the Muslim world is saying no more to terrorists like ISIS who have hijacked their religion with extreme views. The fight against ISIS must be a Muslim-led effort with our support and help. ISIS knows this and wants to draw in America, so they can point to another enemy.

– Before leaving the Middle East, I shared with my Senator’s office that signing a letter to Iran with 46 other senators is asinine. These 47 senators endangered America by showing our division to the world. It is more than OK to debate and argue, but to circumvent negotiations over something this important and to disagree with something before you know what it is childish and dangerous. Columnist Michael Gerson, who is one of the best conservative bent writers, largely said the same thing in his column today. A shrewd leader will use this to our disadvantage. Putin has already written op-ed pieces in our papers to sway opinion. Remember this is the guy who controls his media, so he can play us against ourselves.

– But, let’s set this aside for a minute. What do the chest beaters want us to do if this agreement fails? What do the chest beaters want us to do in Ukraine? What do they want us to do in Syria? Our troops have said to people who will listen, we don’t mind fighting, but give us a clear-cut mission with an end strategy. What does winning look like? These folks that want us to get more heavily involved can not define what winning looks like, as to be brutally frank, it may not be clearly definable. There is a two-word term that comes to mind that military personnel use often to describe these situations and it begins with the word “cluster.” I will let you complete the thought.

– At the same time I was including in my previous post about the City of Miami and the three surrounding counties spending $200 million to combat the encroaching sea that is now coming up through the storm drains and flooding the streets, the state of Florida was striking the words climate change and global warming from formal documents. This is akin to the George W. Bush White House marking through scientific papers presented to them striking the same language. It is also akin to the state of NC General Assembly refusing to accept a peer-reviewed scientific paper that said the sea levels will rise 39 inches (one meter) by 2100, the same prediction accepted in Virginia, Maine, and Louisiana. I wish I could handle my problems this easily, by erasing them with my delete key or pencil eraser. Didn’t you know you could hold back rising sea levels with legal briefs?

– The scariest thing in America right now is our leadership and political machinations. No one cares to govern and only wants to grease the skids to get elected or remain in office. Everything is a win/ lose zero sum game, where one party has to disagree with the other party no matter what. For example, Obamacare borrows from Romneycare, a Republican idea which was advocated by Tea Party leadership for the country and is working for the most part, but Republicans have to hate it. Americans generally know what the problem is in large part, but with the election system gerrymandered and controlled by large donors coupled with a specifically uninformed public who does not know when they are being lied to by faux news shows, we do not have much hope for better governance.

Yet, we must try to make a difference. We have to hold our elected officials accountable. We have to ask questions of news experts and pundits regarding positions or statements they have made. We should also be wary of name-callers and labelers. When you hear someone resort to labels, be mindful that the person must not have a very good argument. We must also read, listen and watch more reputable news sources such as NPR, PBS Newshour, The Guardian, BBC World News America, Al Jazeera News to name a few. If we don’t, then everyday may be a Friday the 13th.

 

 

 

 

 

Voting rights have greatly evolved from when we started, yet are under attack

When our Constitution and Bill of Rights were drafted and approved about 225 years ago, only 5% of our people could vote. Women were not permitted to vote. Slaves were not permitted to vote, but were considered 3/5 a person to give more weight to predominant slave-owning states in Congressional representation. So, pretty much you had to be a property owner to vote.

Our history of voting rights has been an effort to increase the 5%. Slaves were given the right to vote when the Civil War ended, but when they had too much clout, Jim Crow slapped them down. Women were given the right to vote less than 100 years ago, which is still amazing it took that long when you look backwards from today. The Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act passed fifty years ago remedied Jim Crow’s suppression of African-American votes. And, it has taking an ongoing effort to make sure maltreatment of minority voters is not occurring.

Yet, we seem to have a hard time remembering what we are all about. I have written several times about the cookie cutter Voter ID Laws which have other features designed to suppress the vote of young college students, African-Americans and the elderly. Several of these laws have been ruled unconstitutional and are in various stages of appeal. In my own state of North Carolina, the most restrictive Voter ID Law will be on trial next year and should be overturned for unconstitutionally. The question is will it.

Also, in the last two years, our Supreme Court struck down some of the policing and auditing under the Voting Rights Act, saying it was no longer needed. To this day, I am wondering what country our Supreme Court justices reside in, as the country I live in still has some suppressive tendencies, as noted above. When people want less turnout to win an election, then something is wrong.

When you couple the above items with gerrymandering districts, we no longer have competitive elections in many places. The competition is in the primaries for each party and what we end up with, more often than not, are lesser candidates and officials. With so much strident extremism in our major political parties, a moderate candidate does not stand a chance. So, we citizens are malserved as we need more moderate candidates who can govern and understand their party does not have all of the answers. Some are not even permitted to understand the questions and problems per below and are not allowed to think for themselves.

I will be writing in the future about the recent rulings in the Supreme Court which made an age-old problem worse, by making it easier for a wealthy few to control elections. Money is now equated with free speech. Corporations are now people. Together, these rulings allow those with the most money to more easily write the rules. And, our country’s leaders are not listening as much to its citizens, paying more attention to its donors who helped them get elected.

This has got to change, as our problems are too apparent and opportunity is not equal in our country. And, those with the most money want to keep it that way. There is a movement to amend the constitution to restore order by overturning these Supreme Court decisions. In Massachusetts, Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Florida, citizens voted overwhelmingly for their legislators to pass a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling and declare that only human beings – not corporations – are entitled to constitutional rights and that money is not speech and campaign spending can be regulated.

Please look into the movement called Move to Amend and learn more about what it entails. But, also get more informed over the issues of the day and pay less attention to the spin-doctored misinformation offered by pseudo-news sources. We have to hold our leaders accountable, as it is a huge uphill climb.