Especially this year, I have become wary of how news media portrays proposed legislation, as compared with what is actually in the legislation. So when I saw U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan’s proposed constitutional amendment portrayed simply as a national right to vote bill, I wondered what else was in it.
So here you go: While Article 1 states a right to vote, Article 2 puts the federal government in position to dictate anything it wants to control local and state elections. And that’s a problem, because a stabilizing structure in the USA is state-administered election codes, not federal. Pocan’s bill would change that balance of power forever.
Here is the proposed amendment in its entirety:
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SECTION 1. Every citizen of the United States, who is of legal voting age, shall have the fundamental right to vote in any public election held in the jurisdiction in which the citizen resides.
SECTION 2. Congress shall have the power to enforce and implement this article by appropriate legislation.
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That sounds warm and fuzzy. I must be an old curmudgeon. But as I see it, and please show me where I’m wrong on this, the proposed Amendment drops just the one shoe while making sure the other shoe is ready to go. That other shoe–wait for it–is legislation with specific interpretations of exactly what will “enforce and implement” the newly specified “right to vote.”
Simply by calling it part of protecting the new “right to vote,” any aspect of any local election could be made subject to federal control.
As we have seen with the mammoth Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA), fat bills with hidden problems are the easiest place to hide special interest items, as lobbyist Jack Abramoff admitted while trying to ram his own agenda through HAVA.
By amending the Constitution to authorize the U.S. Congress to legislate any kind of election reform it deems “necessary” to protect right to vote, the next thing we will see is partisan, political, complex, pork-laden legislation rammed through. We’ll be lucky if one clause in 50 pages actually addresses “right to vote.”
Nothing in the amendment limits the ensuing legislation to address ONLY right to vote issues. We can expect to see legislation as dense and thick as a Russian novel, rationalized as helping protect “right to vote” but incorporating all kinds of poorly understood (but vendor-friendly) shiny new things.
Universal registration? It’s protecting “right to vote.” (What are the safeguards? Watch for 100 pages of vendor-bid-inviting specifications).
Internet voting? Um, let’s see here… It will protect right to vote by making it “convenient.” Paraphrasing Victoria Collier, “Convenience voting is used to justify every kind of voting system that doesn’t provide for public authentication and chain of custody.” (Nothing in the proposed constitutional amendment says anything about transparency.)
I might be closer to supporting this legislation if it least included public right to see and authenticate all essential steps in elections. Without that, any kind of expensive, opaque, privatized, unwise new system can be called an assistive device for the new “right to vote.”
Nothing in the bill limits ensuing legislation to federal elections. The language says: “All public elections.”
I quibble with the term “public elections,” by the way. What we have in America are NOT “public” elections. In a “public” election the public must be able to see and authenticate all essential steps. In a “public” election, the public would be able to ascertain whether claimed results are true. A public election must have not only public voting, but public accountability.
In truth, the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence on which the Constitution is based ALREADY require that representatives be “chosen by the people” and that the public hold sovereignty over its government.
This amendment, in effect, changes the governmental structure laid out by the founders, by authorizing the U.S. Congress to pass legislation that directs states and local governments on how to conduct their LOCAL elections.
Explain to me why I’m wrong about this.
Originally published at Black Box Voting.