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/