by John Blumentstiel
UPDATE: As we go to press the Republican Party has, for now, defeated the S-1 legislation. We offer a revised article to clarify this, but include it in this issue so as to emphasize our party's concerns and ongoing commitment to a peoples' democracy. - EDITOR
The siege is on. The goal of the right wing's expansive efforts at voter suppression is coming to fruition. Alarms should be sounding, not just for the progressive movement in America, but for all individuals committed to the principles of democracy.. We are experiencing the long term, nefarious results of a well funded effort to suppress the votes of individuals, classes of individuals and political parties themselves.
How is this happening? Let's take a closer look.
- Within the past year, approximately 300 legislative proposals have been filed in over 40 states with the goal of restricting voting rights of various groups of citizens. Efforts include restrictions on early voting and mail in balloting, increased voter ID requirements, limitations on polling sites, enhancing voter roll purges. Additionally, many proposals being considered politicize the vote counting process by removing non-partisan election commissions and replacing them with either state single party dominated legislative bodies or other means of obstructing the process of legitimate vote tallying. This is the "one, two knockout punch to democracy " First keep the people from voting and then assure victory by rigging the vote count. One of the most extreme measures has passed in Georgia which makes it a misdemeanor criminal act to provide water or food to those waiting long hours in lines to vote. Do we really want to become a country that criminalizes humane support for those who through manipulation of voting systems create these hours long delays? This is unconscionable.
- In an effort to appear on the right side of democracy, the Democratic Party had introduced H-1, passed by the House of representatives and introduced S-1, the parallel legislation, in the Senate. As we go to press , the senate has defeated this current proposal. via a Republican led filibuster. However, we will continue to monitor this trend at both the national and state levels as the current legislative attempts at voter suppression continues on many fronts. With the Republican led defeat of S-1 we must not become complacent. The initial read of the for now defeated S-1 legislation did demonstrate some remedies to thwart the right wing Republican party efforts to limit voting rights across the country. However, the critical flaw of the S-1 " For the People" legislation was in the section on campaign finance. This section included language that severely limited the abilities of all third independent political parties to ballot access and ability to gain Federal Government matching funds. This would have been accomplished by two mechanisms:
- Increasing by five fold the requirements to qualify for ballot status, AND
- enhancing the amount of dollars the Democratic National and Republican National Committees can contribute in the electoral campaigns.. The previous limit was $23 million million.. Now raised to $100 million.
This continued threat to a vibrant democracy via exclusion of third party participation, continues to lurk in the shadows of both the Democratic and Republican parties.
These campaign finance requirements would make it all but impossible for independent third parties to enter the state and federal electoral arena. Increasing these requirements 5 fold significantly diminishes the ability for independent parties to receive federal funding which has been used in past elections to gain ballot access. Considering the failures of our national corporatized duopoly parties, "democracy" demands expansion of voter choice, not contraction of political expression and participation. This buried aspect of S-1 is a poison pill to new ideas, new movements and a new direction for America.
So, what do the liberal senators of Massachusetts say about this?
Upon sending them a letter requesting elimination of these democracy destroying campaign finance efforts, I hear nothing from Senator Markey and a generalized letter from Senator Warren addressing her opposition to Citizens United, expressing her disdain for the money corruption of our politics, but a big "0" re: the squashing of true democracy through S-1.
Let's be clear, neither Democrats nor Republicans will support efforts to expand democracy beyond THEIR control. Only the people organized and united can accomplish that. So here's what true "democrats" should be supporting to protect voting rights:
- 15 day early voting
- Internet voter registration
- Automatic voter registration
- Same day voter registration
- Prohibition of unreasonable voter roles purges
- Voter verified permanent ballot record
- Election security from hacking
- Reasonable voter I.D. requirements.
Voting rights as well as Voter Choice are major pieces of our ongoing struggle. It is time to bring these issues to the public arena and hold our congressional delegations feet to the fire.