ANTICIPATING ELECTION DAY
As Texans prepare to go to the polls this week, a question much more momentous than any on which they will be asked to vote looms over them. It concerns the election process itself.
For one thing, voter turnout in many elections is incredibly low. In a 1998 school board election in Comfort, Texas, only 17 out of 720 registered voters cast ballots. Can you believe that? In a 1997 Texas statewide election, only 5 percent of the voting age population bothered to exercise their right to vote. This occurred even though then-Governor George W. Bush traveled the state for a week declaring that a "yes'' vote would result in a major tax cut. His efforts captured the attention of only a few.
The most lackadaisical of voters are 18- and 19-year olds eligible to vote for the first time. Only about 11 percent of them bother to go to the polls.
The lack of voter participation is only part of the problem. When a civic right is not cherished, safeguards become insignificant. Are you aware that at least 8 of the 19 hijackers who attacked the World Trade Center and Pentagon were actually able to register to vote in either Virginia or Florida while they made their deadly preparations for 9/11? Do you realize that the illegal alien who assassinated the Mexican presidential candidate Luis Donaldo Colosio was registered to vote in San Pedro, California? Do you know that, in 2000, around 56,000 St. Louis area voters held multiple voter registrations? Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO) called Election Day in St. Louis "a major criminal enterprise designed to defraud voters." Glaring registration irregularities laid at the door of ACORN in 2008 serve to underscore, as well, the need for close supervision of the voter registration process.
But a lax registration process and abysmally low voter participation pale beside the workings of fraud inside the ballot box itself. Believe it or not, some folks vote multiple times. In a 1997 U.S. Senate probe of a Senate race in Louisiana, more than 1500 cases were discovered where two voters used the same social security number! But finding a court that will punish such fraud is rare. This is the case, although phony voter registrations, illegal absentee ballots, shady recounts, and old-fashioned ballot box stuffing are practiced throughout our country.
So you may be wondering what citizens think of our elections overall. Only 57 percent of Americans believe our elections are fair. What an indictment of democratic governance!
We need, and if our constitutional republic is to survive – must have, some form of voter photo identification, along with voter fraud laws that are stringent and religiously enforced. State officials should have broad subpoena powers to investigate allegations of fraud and should unflinchingly utilize such powers.
Finally, I would suggest that those citizens who, year in and year out, fail to exercise their right to vote be divested of it. Rather than making a prodigious effort through the media and other avenues to "get out the vote," the emphasis should be upon rewarding those who routinely vote with a more powerful voice than they presently have. Why dilute the power of their voices with those of people who have to be pressured, coaxed, and begged to exercise their civic responsibility? "Use it or lose it" might be a more effective tack for policymakers to take.
Honest elections should be fundamental to our identity as a people. Anyone who compromises the integrity of an election, even if it be by the failure to participate, should bear the unpleasant consequences. It all depends upon the will of those of us who are unhappy with the status quo. I for one am ready for reform. How about you?
February 28, 2010