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Kamloops News

THOMPSON: Voting and the American presidential election

May 27, 2019 - 12:00 PM



Two dozen people are running for president of the United States in 2020…and those are just the Democrats. Two other Dems are considering it…but haven’t yet decided. Then, there are two Republicans who are running….and two others - though one is teetering toward a run as an Independent - who might throw their hats in the ring, as well.

Everyone strap in and hold on…America is in for another Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride…otherwise known as the once-every-four-years presidential election.

It is difficult to defend America’s process of electing a president. Forget that campaigns often start two years in advance of actual voting. Forget, too, that the U.S. presidential election alone costs more than the individual annual operating budgets of Chad, Niger, Montenegro, Bermuda, Monaco and about 100 other nations around the world.

And you should really forget that two of the last three presidents of the U.S. each got a few million fewer votes than the people who “lost” the election.

I have a bone to pick with Republicans and Democrats, both of whom have done much to undermine the “One Person, One Vote” principle embodied in the Voters Rights Act of 1964. That principle - the epitome of voting egalitarianism - is easy to understand…one person’s voting power should roughly equal any other’s within the same state.

Republicans have done more to bludgeon voters’ rights than Democrats…fighting unflaggingly for 55 years to make it harder - rather than easier - for people to vote. Of course, Republicans don’t make it hard for all people…just those they deem wouldn’t likely vote for their party’s candidates. Specifically, poor people, African-Americans, younger people and naturalized citizens.

Republicans as a group have long insisted on photo identification and closed convenient polling places and limited poll hours in districts with more Democrat voters. The reason they claim - widespread voter fraud - lacks widespread evidence. In fact, individuals voting illegally - pretending to be someone else, voting in more than one state, being an illegal alien - has occurred less than 100 times in 50 years.

What does occur in significant numbers - and there is evidence galore in states like North Carolina - is an organized effort to falsify absentee ballots by Republicans.

Americans accept some efforts to thwart voting as mere tradition. Why do Americans vote for the president and Congress on “the first Tuesday after November 1”? Seems if Americans really want more people to vote they would make it easier…like Canada.

Consider that in Canada we have a uniform set of rules for Federal elections…from Nova Scotia to British Columbia…everyone plays by the same rules. In the U.S.A., there are 50 sets of rules and regulations…and those who live in the District of Columbia - about 55 percent of whom are people of colour - don’t get to vote at all.

Here in Canada, everyone can vote early…everyone can vote by mail…and everyone knows what they need to vote. Canada recognizes about 40 different proofs of identity…photo, non-photo…the idea is to not disenfranchise voters. Polls are open the exact same number of hours everywhere in Canada. Not so in the U.S.A.

America is a great nation…but it’s not the only nation. And all of the good ideas and practices don’t start there. The U.S.A. might be able to better live up to the words in the Constitution, The Bill of Rights and what have become rather distant ideals…if democracy and freedom for everyone really were goals.

Now, I’ll take a whack at Democrats for their part in undermining democracy. Democrats started some nonsense in the early 1980s that centred on “superdelegates,” delegates who could vote for whomever they want on the first ballot. That meant they could disregard voters of the state they should otherwise reflect and represent. Superdelegates are well-known party leaders, Democratic governors and all Democratic members of the House and Senate...and others chosen by this powerful group.

With more than 700 superdelegates at the Democratic National Convention…about 15 percent of all delegates…one superdelegate equals about 10,000 voters. So much for the “One-Person, One-Vote” principle. Republicans have superdelegates, as well, but they represent only about 7 percent of the total delegates so they are less powerful. The bottom line: superdelegates just give an already traditional power base of a party more power.

The Electoral College might be the strangest, most antiquated thing about presidential elections. Nowhere else in any Federal, state or local election is such a device used to manipulate voting. You can lose the popular vote…by millions…and still become president. The majority of Americans are against it…but like the 90 percent who want some kind of gun control…or 60 percent who want the right to choose an abortion…a powerful minority stands in the way. It is perverse when you think about a so-called majority-rule democracy.

I don’t know, but the whole idea of superdelegates - on the surface - seems intellectually dishonest. Is it really democracy?

There’s plenty of time to sort out who’s who among candidates…and over the next year I’ll likely write about a few…but here’s a quick tally. Of the 23 Democrats, seven are women. Six are people of colour. At least one is gay. Nine are no more than 50 years old. Democrats generally reflect the composition of America better than Republicans…and so it is this coming election where four white men - all eligible for Social Security - have their eyes on the prize.

But the worst thing about the coming presidential election is that President Donald Trump and the Republicans have done little to protect the nation and its citizens from further interference…as Russia did in the 2016 election. In fact, they have cut budgets and gutted offices that might defend against further cyber attacks. Trump and Republicans have sold half of America the idea that that other half of America is more dangerous than sworn enemies like Russia, China and North Korea.

America would do well to take a good hard look at what’s going on within its borders with regard to sacred rights and privileges like voting. Like I said…there’s a lot of good things about the U.S.A….but not every good idea starts there. Meanwhile, citizens here in Canada and elsewhere that used to marvel at American Democracy…simply shake their heads.

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