Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Voter Suppression, Vermont Secessionist Style

Voting rights are under attack in this country as state legislatures nationwide pass voter suppression laws under the pretext of preventing voter fraud and safeguarding election integrity. These voter suppression laws take many forms, and collectively lead to significant burdens for eligible voters trying to exercise their most fundamental constitutional right.
From the ACLU report "Fighting Voter Suppression"
Normally, when we consider what an act of voter suppression might be we perhaps think "GOP; baseless claims of voter fraud; efforts to inhibit voter participation in the guise of protecting election integrity." In fact, voter suppression efforts are not confined to Republicans. For instance, gerrymandering in some states benefits Democrats but it's clearly the Republicans who are masters of this particular bit of electoral legerdemain and it's why Republicans, who could not get the majority of votes for the House in 2012, still maintain control there.

Getting back to what voter suppression might look like in Vermont we need only look to the communities that still vote from the floor on Town Meeting day. In communities where Australian (secret) ballots are used, the elderly and disabled can receive assistance in casting their votes in their homes. Even their care givers who may themselves find it difficult to get to the polls can have their vote counted. Town meeting floor voting has often had a touchy-feely image - think of Norman Rockwell's Four Freedoms series and its depiction of someone speaking from the Arlington, VT town meeting floor. The portrait is often used in conjunction with sloppy, wet embraces of town meeting but it was really about the Freedom of Speech, which includes the freedom to not speak. Part of the myth of town meeting is the notion that discussion and interaction are essential to informed voting, a conceit that has more to do with getting a crack at the opposition and having the opportunity to intimidate and cow opponents and those that may harbor similar opinions.

Now comes Vermont secesher political oligarch and pooh-bah of the "small" remains of the Second Vermont Republic, Rob Williams, a proponent of neo-Confederate principles i.e., Lincoln historical revisionism and that the South had the right to secede to preserve slavery which led directly to the Civil War, with a bold Completely shameless plan to make town meeting even more restrictive with a novel voter suppression element. I won't link to his plan since it's at his anti-Semitic, conspiracy oriented hate site. Williams proposes eliminately all absentee balloting. While painting it as a device used primarily by "sun birds" who can't be bothered from their recreating while others (meaning him) do the hard work. You see, according to Williams, you can't be informed and cast an intelligent secret ballot unless you're on the receiving end of his hectoring at "a community forum that offers time for questions, comments, reflection and discussion." Somehow the disabled and elderly will magically become less disabled and perhaps even younger in May. And people who normally work weekends or hours when his compulsory meeting/discussion/reflection/comments session would be held will now have the time to meet his voting criteria. Oh, and he's including a cookout, along with child care from a group of non-professionals, just in case you haven't gotten your fill of basking in his charismatic aura. The more likely affect of lengthening the meeting will be to drive attendance and voting even further down so that the primary advocacy groups will have the meeting pretty much to themselves and should be able to impose their agenda on a community whose right to vote was so conscribed and afflicted. Williams wants to improve the QUALITY (his ALL CAPS) at the expense of the QUANTITY (again, his CAPS). Right. Perhaps this is the new (if not improved) secesher plan to impose an extremely minority, fringe plan for Vermont to secede from the U.S. on the more than 99% who do not support their kooky and illegal idea.

Rob's got two big problems right off: (1) there's no constitutional requirement that such a contrived, QUALIFYING (my CAPS) event take place, and (2) it's very unconstitutional to erect such "intelligent/educational" hurdles. Perhaps Williams, a self-described "historian" and "educator" has forgotten the nearly 50 year old Voting Rights Act of 1965 [1] [2] and its ending of the practice of institutionalized disenfranchisement of selected groups - in this case, if not the people he wants to harangue, the certainly the elderly, the disabled, their care providers, and the working poor, to name only few of the groups that would be left out because they wouldn't have enough "skin in the game" of voting to satisfy him. Even if Williams could muster the votes to impose this clearly unconstitutional endeavor, it'd only be one filing away from being cast onto the ash heap of electoral history. Remember the part of the top paragraph that read,
"...preventing voter fraud and safeguarding election integrity(?)"
Williams is just reworking that to prevent uninformed voting, according to him only and for which he provides no evidence, just like those "preventing voter fraud," and "safeguarding" qualitative "voting integrity."

His third problem, and this is where his voter suppression plan really shines through, is that he wants to do this electoral run around on a Sunday in May. The first weekend has Green Up Day on Saturday, so there goes the weekend; the second weekend is Mother's Day Sunday and even he can't be that much of a dick as to dump his mother for such an event (but, wait, maybe that is the plan!!!); the third weekend is the only open one before Memorial Day weekend and most of us are trying our damnedest to get the garden in (maybe that's a good suppression plan); and then, of course, unlike Rob, Memorial Day weekend actually means something to many of us, and if your aim is to suppress the vote, hold it on a holiday weekend.

Nice try, Robbie, but this dumb idea is just as dead as virtually all of your other campaigns, before it even gets started. Your contempt for the intelligence of Vermonters really shines through on this one, pal.

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