Warm Southern Breeze

"… there is no such thing as nothing."

America’s Bizarre Voting Mishmash

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Friday, October 16, 2020

Voting in America is crazy.

Reading the bizarre differences of Voter ID laws, rules, and regulations in four neighboring states – Florida and Alabama, Alabama and Tennessee, and Tennessee and Kentucky – one can’t help but laugh at the absurdity, and inconsistency of it all.

Moreover, it gives pause for thought, and raises the question: What the hell is going on, and why?

Such absurdity is not limited to those Southern former “slave states.” Throughout America, laws relating or pertaining to voting are a poorly designed, pathetically executed mishmash, a harum-scarum hodgepodge, which is rickety and contradictory, and a miserably vacillating excuse for a democratic process as one could possibly imagine.

There is LITERALLY NO CONSISTENCY in them whatsoever!

LITERALLY!

Here are a few simple, yet egregious examples to illustrate the case in point.

In Vermont, Maine, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico (yes, Puerto Ricans are American citizens) convicted felons can vote… while incarcerated.

But not in any other state in the union.

In Florida, voters in the Sunshine State agreed in 2018 with a 65% majority to allow former felons who had completed their sentences to vote. It restored the rights of nearly 1.5 million citizens in that state. However, the GOP-dominated legislature overrode the citizens expressed will and changed the law to require the former felons to have paid all fines and fees associated with their case, before they could register to vote, thereby effectively disenfranchising at least 6.98% of 21,477,737 Floridians of their Constitutionally-guaranteed right.

The National Conference of State Legislators (NCSL) makes this observation about numerous inconsistencies regarding felony disenfranchisement in the 50 states:

  • In 16 states, felons lose their voting rights only while incarcerated, and receive automatic restoration upon release.
  • In 21 states, felons lose their voting rights during incarceration, and for a period of time after, typically while on parole and/or probation. Voting rights are automatically restored after this time period. Former felons may also have to pay any outstanding fines, fees or restitution before their rights are restored as well.
  • In 11 states felons lose their voting rights indefinitely for some crimes, or require a governor’s pardon in order for voting rights to be restored, face an additional waiting period after completion of sentence (including parole and probation) or require additional action before voting rights can be restored.

And while some states revoke the right to vote following a felony conviction, thereby requiring re-registration, North Dakota automatically registers all eligible voters.

And that’s just a good start to illustrate the case in point.

There is NO consistency in the 50 states’ laws when it comes to matters pertaining to voting.

For the largest part, states can, and do, whatever they want when it comes to matters pertaining to voting.

Why?

Because they can.

There are very few, if any, Federal voting-related laws, rules, or regulations in the United States.

Article I., Section 4 of the United States Constitution reads in pertinent part that, “The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Places of chusing Senators.”

The USA.gov website writes this about voting laws, and specifically, Federal election crimes:

Federal election crimes fall into three broad categories:

  • Campaign finance crimes, such as when candidates accept funds that violate the amounts or donors permitted under the law
  • Civil rights violations, involving voter intimidation, coercion, threats, and other tactics to suppress a person’s ability to vote
  • Voter fraud and voter registration fraud, such as when someone illegally casts a vote in the name of a dead person or someone who’s moved

Many states have strengthened their voter ID requirements to try to stop voter fraud.

Again, it’s very sketchy, very sparse, and pertains only nominally to any matter related to voting. And state laws pertaining to Voter ID were instituted in areas where such disenfranchisement had historically occurred.

How ironic, eh?

The link to the U.S. Department of Justice’s site on “Introduction To Federal Voting Rights Laws” only addresses the Voting Rights Act of 1965 which was written to ensure the right of voting was not denied to Blacks, or other racial/ethnic minorities.

And now that the United States Supreme Court recently struck down Sections 4(b) and 5 – the provisions in the VRA which established the formula to determine if the law was applicable, and the enumeration of the areas where the law was applicable, which were locales where there had been historical incidents of the denial of voting rights – which were essentially the “heart and lungs” of the law.

“The Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder, 570 U.S. 529 (2013) held that the coverage formula set forth in Section 4(b) of the Act was unconstitutional, and as a consequence, no jurisdictions are now subject to the coverage formula in Section 4(b) or to Sections 4(f)(4) and 5 of Act.

When Congress enacted the Voting Rights Act of 1965, it determined that racial discrimination in voting had been more prevalent in certain areas of the country. Section 4(a) of the Act established a formula to identify those areas and to provide for more stringent remedies where appropriate. The first of these targeted remedies was a five-year suspension of “a test or device,” such as a literacy test as a prerequisite to register to vote. The second was the requirement for review, under Section 5, of any change affecting voting made by a covered area either by the United States District Court for the District of Columbia or by the Attorney General. The third was the ability of the Attorney General to certify that specified jurisdictions also required the appointment of federal examiners. These examiners would prepare and forward lists of persons qualified to vote. The final remedy under the special provisions is the authority of the Attorney General to send federal observers to those jurisdictions that have been certified for federal examiners.”

Because Sections 4(b) and 5 were essentially the heart and lungs of the act, and were struck down, it is now a toothless giant.

The irony of the matter is not lost, that the case, Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder, came from a former “slave state,” one where the rights to vote were historically and regularly denied to Blacks.

In Alabama, and in several other states, state law requires that a voter must present a photographic ID to validate and authenticate their identity. In most cases – MOST, but NOT ALL – the ID used must be “valid,” meaning that it must not have expired… meaning “not expired or has been expired less than 60 Days.” (It’s not like one’s identity suddenly changes once the document’s “expiration date” is reached.)

But if the voter does not have any “valid” photographic ID, Alabama law states that, “A voter who is required to present valid photo identification [that’s ALL voters] but who does not do so will be allowed to vote a provisional ballot as provided by law,” and has “until 5:00 PM on the Friday after the election to submit valid photo identification. Otherwise, the ballot will not be counted.”

But there’s an out.

Alabama law also states that, “A voter who does not have a valid photo ID in his or her possession at the polls shall be permitted to vote a regular ballot if the individual is positively identified by two election officials as a voter on the poll list who is eligible to vote and the election officials sign a sworn affidavit so stating.”

So if election officials Bubba Leroy and Maryjane know you, and happen to be at your polling location when you are, you’re A-OK! Good luck!

However, in Tennessee, even “expired” photographic IDs may be used to authenticate a voter’s identity. But in Tennessee, that state’s legislators thought valid college or university-issued student IDs should not be considered legitimate forms of photographic ID, and may not be used for voter identification purposes. Go figure.

In Alabama, state law establishes a uniformity of statewide polling hours of operation on Election Day by writing that “Every polling place shall open for voting at 7:00 A.M. and shall close at 7:00 P.M. All polling places in areas operating on eastern time shall open and close under this section pursuant to eastern time except the county commissions in Chambers County and Lee County may by resolution provide for any polling place to be excluded from this sentence and to be open according to central time.” Chambers and Lee County must be extra special.

But in Tennessee’s 95 counties, each County Election Commission may establish polling hours of operation, which are nowhere uniform, not even in one location, or one voting site.

Here’s an example of the hours of operation for ONE polling location for Early Voting in-person:

Wed, Oct 14 (8:00 AM – 4:30 PM)
Thur, Oct 15 (8:00 AM – 7:00 PM)
Fri, Oct 16 (8:00 AM – 5:30 PM)
Sat, Oct 17 (8:00 AM – 4:30 PM)
Mon, Oct 19 (8:00 AM – 5:30 PM)
Tue, Oct 20 (8:00 AM – 7:00 PM)
Wed, Oct 21 (8:00 AM – 4:30 PM)
Thur, Oct 22 (8:00 AM – 7:00 PM)
Fri, Oct 23 (8:00 AM – 5:30 PM)
Sat, Oct 24 (8:00 AM – 4:30 PM)
Mon, Oct 26 (8:00 AM – 5:30 PM)
Tue, Oct 27 (8:00 AM – 7:00 PM)
Wed, Oct 28 (8:00 AM – 4:30 PM)
Thur, Oct 29 (8:00 AM – 7:00 PM)

Alabama does not have Early Voting… unless one considers Absentee Voting to be Early Voting – which of course, it is. But Alabama does NOT have in-person Early Voting as many states do – meaning voting at a polling location using a voting machine. To vote early in Alabama, one must vote absentee, and must do so in person… at the county courthouse.

In Kentucky, voters this year were able to enjoy an expanded period of Early Voting in-person, thanks to a compromise agreement between the Democratic Governor Andy Beshear and Republican Secretary of State Michael Adams, which eliminated the no-excuse absentee voting by mail that Kentucky successfully used in the June primary, and instead allows anyone concerned about catching or spreading the coronavirus to vote by mail in the November 3 general election.

Beginning October 13, for three weeks, registered voters in the Bluegrass State have the option to cast their ballot early in person before the General Election, with polls open Monday through Saturday.

Regarding Early Voting, the NCSL observes that there is significant variation in states’ laws or regulations concerning the same, and finds that:

• The date on which early voting begins may be as early as 45 days before the election, or as late as the Friday before the election.

• Early voting periods range in length from four days to 45 days.

• Of the states that allow early in-person voting, 24 and the District of Columbia allow some weekend early voting.

• Tennessee does not allow Sunday Early Voting. Saturday Early Voting is permitted.

• 20 states, plus the District of Columbia provide for voting on Saturday. Four additional states (California, Kansas, Vermont and Massachusetts) leave it up to county clerks who may choose to allow Saturday voting. Delaware and Virginia will also include Saturday voting when the laws go into effect.

• Sunday: Five states (Alaska, Illinois, Maryland, New York and Ohio) allow for Sunday voting. Five states (California, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada and Massachusetts) leave it up to county clerks who may choose to be open on Sundays. Florida mandates early voting must begin, including Sunday, the 10th day and end the third day prior to the election for state and federal elections. Local election officials also have the discretion to allow early voting the Sunday prior to the election. Delaware will also include Sunday voting when the law goes into effect in 2022.

Illustrating these rabid inconsistencies, one might wonder how, or why our nation got into such a condition, and even how it manages to survive, despite the obvious flaws.

And then, there are the “more obvious” and egregious matters brought about by numerous attempts by various states at voter disenfranchisement – the proverbial squeaky wheels of voting – as briefly mentioned earlier. Interestingly enough, some of those efforts at voter disenfranchisement came first through various states’ Voter ID laws.

All told, in matters pertaining to voting, we see so-called “states rights” adherents doing just that, exercising the rights abusing the responsibilities which have been left to them. But again, in voting, the United States Congress has the authority to exercise dominion over the matter, and they should, in order to maintain uniformity among the 50 states, which is an administration of justice.

I have long advocated for a National Uniform Voting Standard Law which would govern practically every aspect of voting in all 50 states, and leave the matter of adherence and administration to the states.

• There is no legitimate reason why all 50 states should not have 12 hours of open polls on Election Day, or any Early Voting day.
• There is no legitimate reason why some states have Early Voting in person, and others do not.
• There is no legitimate reason why Early Voting in person periods are longer in some states, than in others.
• There is no legitimate reason why voters who want Vote By Mail ballots should be denied them.
• There is no legitimate reason why felons in some states should be denied their rights to vote, while in other states they vote while incarcerated.
• There is no legitimate reason not to automatically register every person qualified to vote.
• There is no legitimate reason why uniformity among the states on all matters pertaining to voting is so schizophrenically harum-scarum, so utterly bizarre that it practically defies the imagination.

If we looked to the future, and prepared for it, we could envision a National Voter ID law – if Congress so chose – and let the states print them – a uniform form of Voter ID which would be valid in ALL 50 states, but could only be used in the state of one’s residence, where registered.

If we looked to the future, and prepared for it, we could envision a much greater voter registration, and even greater voter participation rates.

Instead of making voting more difficult, we could make it easier, thereby encouraging participation in our most fundamental democratic process.

Article I., Section 4 of our Constitution expressly gives We The People, by and through our Congress, the ability, the right, and the responsibility to do so.

And, we should.

“The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof;
but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations,
except as to the Places of chusing Senators.”

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