Rob Carlson, Democrat for US Congress
New Jersey District 1
Rob Carlson, Democrat for US Congress
New Jersey District 1

Voting Rights and the Power of “Not Possible”

The power of “Not Possible” is the addition of the word “yet”. A proposal may initially fail. In some cases, we may know for certain that it will not gain necessary support. But it is important to bring that idea up anyway, because otherwise it is never considered.  To this end we need to talk about problems with voting in America.

The biggest failing of our current system is inherent unfairness in representation.  Much of this happens through Congressional Acts that were written for different ages, but the immediately addressable aspects concern vote suppression and obstacles. The latter are more visible, and more easily addressed*, through some very specific actions that do not change the structure of our government. To wit:

  • Voting should be easier.  Same day registration should be allowed for general elections and measures outside of party primaries.  (NJ took a big step forward in this regard.  We need the whole country there.) Voting by mail should be universally allowed.  It should be easy to get State or National issued ID for voting, and provisional ballots should always be provided in case of disputes.  Most importantly, the general election should be a national holiday — preferably in the middle of the week.
  • Voting should be less susceptible to corruption and shenanigans.  A national system of voting should be introduced with open source software and a paper trail that can be created on demand.  We can ensure privacy and guarantee a vote is counted at the same time.  We can make sure recounts are fair and that data does not get wiped away.  We also must mandate that populations are guaranteed  sufficient voting machines for their density.  There can be no more episodes of inner cities having much fewer voting machines in their precincts than the less-populated suburban areas do.  This must be mandated by law.
  • Voter intimidation should be treated as a serious crime.  One shouldn’t be allowed to approach voters and tell them that their vote is potentially illegal and/or threaten them with prosecution.
  • Time served restores voting rights. If someone has paid their debt to society, they should be allowed to rejoin and take part.
  • The electoral college should be abolished in favor of a popular vote, optimally with preferential voting.

All of these concepts except abolishing the electoral college could be included in single bills or in an omnibus Voting Rights of 2019 Act.  These should be pushed even if they fail, because those that vote against (or more likely, refuse to consider) these measures can be singled out as those opposing fairness in representation. It’s not an issue unless we make it an issue.

The greater problem we face in America is systemic.  A bias against denser areas is built into our laws.  While gerrymandering is a problem and needs to be countered, there will, under our present districting laws, always be a problem with the voting strength of urban areas being too concentrated.  Combine this with the fact that our House of Representatives, has been capped at 435 since 1911.  Less densely populated states are always guaranteed a minimum of one representative and two senators (meaning 3 electoral votes), while states growing at a faster rate have their ceilings capped, meaning that the small states hold greater and greater power as our population grows.  This leads to a permanent tyranny of the minority.  Population centers (meaning cities) have more people.  They should have more power.  Those in favor of status quo will argue this results in the cities having the final say.  So what?  Civilization is cities.  Check out this video:  Why Cities Exist .  This is the natural order of human being interaction, to devalue the rule of the most people is inherently un-democratic.

So we have two issues we need to address.  The first is unfairness in distribution, the second is a ceiling that always favors less densely populated states.  Both of these problems can be fixed by repealing Congressional acts that had little foresight.  Overturning H.R. 2508, Uniform Congressional District Act of 1967 would allow states to combat gerrymandering if it were accompanied by an act mandating a certain number of at-large seats either statewide or in mega districts. While this act originally was meant to combat minority votes being disenfranchised by a slate of majority candidates, this is drawback is negated through the introduction of preferential voting. (See also this from Fair Vote and this from The Hill.) We would end up with a wider spectrum political positions among winners, as well as more representation for those with minority opinions in their immediate locales.

The other no-brainer is repealing the Reapportionment Act of 1929, which was a continuation of the Apportionment Act of 1911. This would allow us to implement the Wyoming Rule, which is proposes that the representative to population ratio should be based on the smallest state. This would increase California’s share but also Texas. It would also make the discrepancy between the states with the least representation per population and the most representation a slight bit more fair. As part of this arrangement Puerto Rico and Washington DC should be offered full statehood. In the past arguments against increasing the house size have included of all things the capacity of the current building’s chamber. I would think that a country as great as ours could figure out a way to make the physical chambers larger for the greater good.

Now obviously, many congresspersons would not want these changes because their comfortable districts may be threatened. I say this; If you are against the greater good and greater fairness for the electorate, you don’t deserve your office.

*Assuming a bunch of corrupt republicans lose their jobs in November 2018…

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