Saturday, September 23, 2006

Gutknecht votes to suppress democracy; foster apathy

Lead by a Republican majority that has been non-responsive to many of America’s needs, the 109th Congress has been branded as DoNothing Congress, but their main accomplishments lie ahead … sadly, those accomplishments may be a degeneration of the advances that our society has made over the past 100 years.

This week, Gil Gutknecht, Mark Kennedy, John Kline, Jim Ramstad and other Republicans voted to step back in time to disenfranchise its citizens.

During the past century, Congress, faced with a question of individual citizens’ rights and national interest, determined that states rights would be subservient to federal law in right to vote issues. From women getting the right to vote in 1920, the exposure of poll tax, and cumulating in the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Congress repeatedly enacted laws to make voting inclusive. My first opportunity to vote was a result of the 26th Amendment to the Constitution.

On September 20th, this Republican House of Representatives approved H.R. 4844 – the Federal Election Integrity Act of 2006. The intent of this legislation is to require proof that the individual is a citizen of the United States to prevent fraudulent voting in Federal elections.
If any state enacted this legislation fifty years ago, Congress would have stepped in … but now, the House is leading the charge.

Quickly, I see four problems with this legislation.

One, it is solving a problem that may not be there.
With Congressional Districts drawn to ensure incumbents retain their seats, most Federal Elections are non-competitive. Many pundits believe that this year might have the largest changeover – but no more than fifty of the 435 districts are in question. I believe the last close election in Minnesota was Minge-Kennedy in 2000 which Kennedy won by 439 votes (138,972 vs. 138,583). Generally, incumbents win by tens of thousands of votes. Does Congress really think that illegal aliens are going to expose themselves by voting? If they did, how many elections would be changed? Since it is reported that so many illegal aliens have fraudulent identification, wouldn’t being on the voter’s rolls actually reinforce their bogus identity?

Two, this is another federal mandate without funding for the states to implement.

Third, the hassle of obtaining the necessary paperwork for a citizen to exercise the right to vote will create additional apathy and non-participation in the process.
The queue will increase as people show their identification delaying the process of voting. I live in a rural area and when I go to vote, it’s a chance to see the neighbors. The election judges know me – either personally or at least enough to say a quick hello at the grocery store – but under these rules, if the judge is doing the job correctly, ID will have to be shown. During the 2004 election, our precinct had observers from the Twin Cities; I’m sure they would demand ID be evaluated. The same ID requirement is applicable for absentee voting which may reduce the number of seniors and handicapped citizens.

Fourth, the ramifications are that only activists will participate in the election process.
Although this is applicable to Federal Elections, State Elections take place at the same time. The spill down to local elections is where the smaller voter turnout will be felt. Case in point, the recent September 12th Primary Election was used to trim a large number of candidates for the November elections. One School Board District in Rochester had over 9,000 votes … and the margin between first and third was less than 100 votes.

This is an outrage and every Representative who voted for it should be ashamed.

In an era, when more people vote for American Idol, shouldn’t Congress be trying to increase voter participation? But then again, more people can probably name the winners of American Idol then their Congressman … but that may be what Congress wants – apathetic and ill-informed voters.

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