Monday, March 23, 2015

What Secret Ballot? A Progressive Dream

Three Easy Pieces:  Fundamental Progressive Transformation

#Automatic Voter Registration
#Mandatory Voting
#The End of the Secret Ballot

Automatic Voter Registration

Oregon broke new ground again.  The Department of Migratory Voters (DMV) will pass on the names of all individuals getting drivers licenses to the Secretary of State's Office where government workers will register them to vote and send them ballots in the mail.  Ballots by mail has already been shown to be ripe for fraud, and this makes it worse.

Here in Colorado, a 2012 voter rolls audit uncovered hundreds of non-citizens registered to vote.  The Secretary of state sent letters to the non-citizens, and the ones who responded apologized, saying they did not know they had been registered by over-eager Democrat operatives who minted their drivers license.

Automatic voter registration is about expanding the Democrat voter base, as is the President's suggestion we make voting mandatory.

Mandatory Voting

Why not?  A government that can compel you under penalty of law to purchase a service from an insurance company can surely make you vote.  Justice Roberts could easily find a way to uphold the President's vision if some rightwing crazy happened to get through the concentric rings of judicial courts protecting the Supremes and charge into their august chamber waving a copy of the constitution.

Oh yeah.  The Federal Government could totally do it.  Their biggest challenge would be coercing compliance from the states.  Harvard Law Review has an excellent summary of the issue, with Section III discussing the constitutionality of mandatory voting.

An added bonus? With everyone theoretically required to vote, but many shirking their newly-minted progressive duty, that leaves a lot of vacated ballots ripe for the filling in, and the math will all add up. 

Secret Ballot:  Not Guaranteed by the Constitution

Think the secret ballot is a constitutional guarantee? It's not, and there are people on the left who want to do away with it now that they feel the social debate tipping in their direction.

What follows flows from the red ink pen of Martin (yes, only one name), a "cute and perky" self-described "InterSexNonBinaryCisGyn who refuses to be gender-typed."  She wrote a sprawling piece in Workers World that was subsequently picked up by such esteemed publications as The Nation, Vanity Fair and Democrat Underground.  It's long and rambly, so I serve you up some snippets...
Fidel Grijalva of the Chicano rights organization La MeCHa and urban activist La'Quaysha Shabazz are on a quest:  To kill the secret ballot.


I met Grijalva and Shabazz in a south side eatery.  Fidel takes my hand and escorts me to their booth.  He hooked a thumb to the picture on the wall behind him and grinned mischievously.  "I did that."

It is a picture of George Washington from the one dollar bill, but the Father of our Country sports a tasteful soul patch below his lower lip, and the name "Washington" on the scrolly thingy below his name has been replaced with "Jorge Vato-Man."

"Look," Grijalva insists, his smile and perfect, accented English both charming and convincing, "it's time we shame the people into doing the right thing.  You want to vote for a slate of hateful, racist, greedy Republicans?  Great!  Wonderful!  But it's going on record.  Actions have consequences."

Shabazz jumps in, and she speaks with the deliberateness of a teacher tired of a student's crap, her eyes made angrier by the severe black frames of her designer glasses.  "We are a community.  But there are some who think they some kind of cowboy, or little house on the prairie family, all independent.  Meanwhile, they drive on public roads, use public utilities, police protection, and they never stop to check their white privilege." 

Grijalva jumps in.  "Yes.  They benefit from corporate welfare, government subsidies to big oil and big pharma--"

"Um Hm," Shabazz picks it up and lays it down.  "So whose side are you on?  We got whities talking a good game about equal rights, but Barack Obama only beat the Mormon cracker by 5 million votes.  Five Million!  People be talkin' outta both sides o' they mouth."

Then she leaned back and allowed herself a satisfied smile.  "You know," she shifted effortlessly from street slang to college professor English, "states don't even have to allow their people to vote for president.  Did you know that?  Certain people in this country love to talk about the constitution and quote the founders,"  she paused and laughed out loud, "but they don't realize that every time they cast a vote for president, their civic duty,"  she laughed again, "they are contradicting the founders' wishes!"


I went looking for someone to explain the constitutionality of all this, and Professor Channing Hemple, an imposing man in his 60's with his hippie's hair still long, but gray and thinning.  He holds a doctorate in social ethics of justice and jurisprudence, and he was eager to help me out.  I sat in a student's chair before his large oaken desk in his  book-lined office overlooking Harvard's greenery and asked my opening question:  "Doesn't the constitution guarantee us a secret ballot?" 

The professor lurched forward, almost climbing over his desk. "What?  What?"  he demanded, then a wry smile slipped across his face and he settled back in his chair, combed his hair back with his fingers, and assumed an air of almost condescension as he set me straight.

He cleared his throat and begins.  "Denver U.S. District Judge Christine Arguello ruled in 2012 that there was no no "fundamental right" to a secret vote in the U.S. Constitution."  He does the two-fingered quote thingy with both hands when he over-enunciates the words "fundamental right."

"We didn't even have the secret ballot in this country until the 1880's!  It was called the Australian ballot when it was first introduced in Kentucky.  It's not a constitutional guarantee, man.  It's a social contract.  Go tell that to the tea-baggers and watch their tri-corn hats droop."  He leaned back in his chair and laughed, and I had to laugh with him.

I ended up learning from Professor Hemple that all kinds of things we take for granted are not in the constitution:  Corporations have no rights to their greed, contracts are not mentioned, public assistance, unemployment, food stamps, right to immigration.  A rightwing fascist GOP state could really tear up our social fabric.  Did you know there is nothing stopping them from making a national police force?  

Before I left, he told me that the states and their "constitutions"--again with the finger quotes--were all that stood in the way of killing the tyranny of the secret ballot.  But then he brushed away his own comment, saying all it would take was a strong president to lay down the law and threaten to withhold highway funds.


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