Warm Southern Breeze

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Why America Needs A National Uniform Voting Standards Law

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Sunday, November 1, 2020

How many voting-related laws are there in our allegedly “united” United States?

You’d likely be shocked to find out.

Maybe, maybe not.

And frankly, I don’t know how many voting related laws there are in our nation, and I’ve neither read, nor heard of any compendium on the subject, nor have I ever heard anyone directly or indirectly address the topic.

But, laws are finite – there are only a fixed amount at any given time – so it’s entirely possible to make a reasoned determination of that number. So let’s work it this way:

There are 3141 counties and county equivalents in the 50 United States.

If each county or county equivalent had only 1 law pertaining to voting related matters, that’d be 3141 laws.

If each state had only one law pertaining to any voting-related matter, there would be at least 50 laws.

And on the local level, Governing magazine wrote on May 31, 2019 that “nationally, there were a total of 38,779 general-purpose governments in the United States in 2017, along with another 51,296 special districts.” (Governing magazine also has a “heat map” of U.S. Local Governments from data provided by the 2017 Census of Governments, U.S. Census Bureau. Check it out. You might be amazed at what you find.)

So, if the 90,095 total general-purpose governments and special districts, 3141 counties/county equivalents and 50 states each had only 1 voting-related law, that’d be a GRAND TOTAL of 93,286 laws.

But I assure you, there are MANY, MANY, MANY, MANY MORE than just one voting-related law in each of those areas.

So, purely for illustration purposes, let’s just hypothetically say there are at LEAST 100 voting-related laws in each of the 50 United States. Doing the math, that’s 50 x 100 = 5000. Again, that’s at a minimum.

But, what if there are 200 voting-related laws in each of the 50 United States?

That’d be 10,000 voting-related laws. And that’s only at the state level.

Perhaps already you’re beginning to “get the picture,” to understand the size, scope, nature, and extent of the problem.

And to be utterly certain, and without question, the problem is the variety and number of voting-related laws, many of which are contradictory among them.

There’s LITERALLY NO justifiable, commonsensical, rational reason to have so many DIFFERENT – even blatantly contradictory – laws on just one subject over which the Federal government has ultimate authority.

Some people cry, whine, moan, groan and complain about “smaller government” – as if a larger, significantly more populous nation (the 3rd most populous on Earth) with even more inventions, creative works, businesses, operations, and things in general, than ever before, needed fewer laws.

And according to that theory, the “smaller government” theory, the larger a nation is, the fewer laws they should have. And if the theory were so (it is not), at some time, laws and the necessity of them, would simply “dry up” and disappear. It’s like saying a full-grown man should wear the same size clothing he did as a 5-year-old child. And as theories go, it’s much like a bowl of Frosted Lucky Charms cereal… “Magically Delicious!”

So, here’s your opportunity to “put your money where your mouth is,” to “put up, or shut up,” to prove that you’re serious about what you spout off.

Here’s your chance to TRULY make it happen – to TRULY make a SMALLER, more efficient, more effective, more “streamlined” government on MANY levels.

Let’s eliminate the exceeding majority of ALL such laws on matters relating to voting in favor of…

One law to rule them all –

a National Uniform Voting Standards Law – a minimum standard to which all other voting-related laws must adhere.

Don’t think that’s a good idea?

We already have one law to rule us all.

It’s called the Constitution.

So let’s examine just one, or two, readily observable reasons which are prime examples of why it is a VERY good idea to have “one law to rule them all” on voting-related matters.

First of all, when people talk, or write about “voting rights,” there really is NO SUCH THING in our nation. The right to vote is essentially treated by the Constitution as a “states rights” matter. That’s why the franchise of voting rights for women, for Blacks, and those aged 18, and older, is specifically addressed in the United States Constitution – because it was NOT mentioned to begin with, and the states played with it to their heart’s content… just like they still do on many voting-related matters.

Author and radio talk show host Thom Hartmann states the matter succinctly:

“In America, the country that is supposed to be the world’s premier democratic republic, citizens do not have an absolute right to vote.”

So, let’s quickly examine what the United States Constitution says about the franchise of voting.

The 15th Amendment (ratified February 3, 1870) states in pertinent part that, “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”

Note the conditions cited in the 15th Amendment: 1.) Race; 2.) Color, and; 3.) Previous condition of servitude. Note also that the law is pertinent to “the United States” and “any State.” If states did not have any control over the matter, there would be no need for language mentioning them.

The 19th Amendment (ratified August 18, 1920) states in pertinent part that, “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”

The 26th Amendment (ratified July 1, 1971) states in pertinent part that, “The right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age.”

Race, Sex, Age…

Those are the only three provisions relating to voting addressed in the United States Constitution. But still, the United States Constitution does not explicitly grant a right to vote to its citizens. So by virtue of its absence from the U.S. Constitution, the right to vote is a matter left largely to the States.

The Department of Justice website writes this about voting rights in the United States: “The [1965 Voting Rights] Act [which was initially adopted in 1965 and extended in 1970, 1975, and 1982] codifies and effectuates the 15th Amendment’s permanent guarantee that, throughout the nation, no person shall be denied the right to vote on account of race or color.”

They write further that, “In addition, the Act contains several special provisions that impose even more stringent requirements in certain jurisdictions throughout the country.” And in regard to those “several special provisions that impose even more stringent requirements,” that is referring to Sections 4(b) and 5 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), which were struck down by the United States Supreme Court in a 2013 5-4 decision by the conservative wing of the court (CJ Roberts, joined by Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, Alito), in the case Shelby County, Alabama v Holder. Because Sections 4(b) and 5 were considered the “heart and lungs” of the act, the law is effectively dead.

Next, let’s examine a relatively benign voting matter – Early Voting.

The National Conference of State Legislators writes this about state laws governing early voting: “Six states do not offer pre-Election Day in-person voting options: Connecticut, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, and South Carolina.”

But let’s examine that statement briefly, because it is misleading, and look at 2 neighboring states in the South – Alabama and Tennessee – and because it perfectly illustrates the case in point, that there are numerous inconsistencies in the laws pertaining to voting in the 50 states.

Tennessee has an Early Voting period which is differentiated from Absentee Voting (aka Vote By Mail), both of which are established by state law.

The Tennessee Secretary of State’s website references the conditions that exist to allow Tennessee residents the opportunity to Vote Early. It states in part that,

“Early voting is one of two ways in which a registered voter of Tennessee may vote before the actual election day.  The second way for a registered voter to vote early is called by-mail voting.

“Both early voting and by-mail voting are for the voter’s convenience.  These two voting choices differ in that to vote by-mail, the individual must have a statutory reason.  On the other hand, to vote during the early voting period, the person may vote purely for the sake of convenience.

“To vote early, a person must appear in person at either the county election commission office or at a satellite voting location opened by the county election commission.  The early voting period typically begins twenty (20) days before an election and ends five (5) days before an election.  The exception is for the Presidential Preference Primary, when early voting ends seven (7) days before the election. Although closed from voting on holidays, a person may vote early on any Saturday that falls during this time frame.  In those instances in a city election where there is not any opposition on the ballot, there shall be no early voting period.”

Alabama does not have any such law to allow voters to Vote Early In Person… at least not in the sense that they could go to a polling location in their city/county of residence, and cast a ballot. In Alabama, if a voter wishes to vote early, they must Vote Absentee. The AARP website states this about Early In Person voting in Alabama: “Alabama has no in-person early voting. But if you apply for and receive an absentee ballot before Election Day, you can submit it any time prior to Nov. 3.” The Alabama Secretary of State’s website has an entire litany about the conditions required to avail oneself of Absentee Voting.

And in response to an OpEd critical of Alabama’s voting laws, the Secretary of State wrote, and published a response on the SOS website which also provides some information about Alabama’s arcane voting laws, and the provision this year by which the SOS has the legal authority to extend/expand access to Absentee Voting by Emergency Decree.

The SOS’s letter of response dated Thursday, July 23, 2020, reads in part that, “Related to the emergency administrative rule promulgated by our office, Section 17-11-3(e) of the Code of Alabama explicitly states: “If the occurrence of a state of emergency as declared in this or any other state, or by the federal government, renders substantial compliance with this article impossible or unreasonable for a group of qualified voters who respond to the emergency, the Secretary of State, pursuant to Section 41-22-5, may adopt an emergency rule to allow those qualified voters to vote by absentee ballot.”

Already, you should see how convoluted and confusing things are between the two neighboring states in regard to one simple matter: Voting In Person.

The differences don’t stop there.

In Tennessee, when presenting themselves to vote, voters must produce a form of photographic identification, which state law says may be expired, but current college/university-issued Student IDs are NOT considered valid forms of photographic ID. In Alabama, they are. And in Alabama, NO form of any photographic ID used for Voter Identification purposes may be expired.

So, there’s that, as well.

I have previously written about these, and other voting-related matters and problems on Friday, August 14, 2020 in an entry entitled “Going Postal Over Voting By Mail, Voting In Person, Early Voting, Voter ID, And Many More Confusing Things.”

Here’s yet another glaring inconsistency in voting-related laws in the 50 states.

CNN recently published a story about a 20-year-old woman in Wisconsin who cast her first-ever ballot this year in accordance with state law. She was hospitalized during the 2018 election, and unable to vote at that time. In the time since she cast her ballot early via the state’s Early Vote/Vote By Mail provisions, she died in late September from bone cancer which she’d been battling for at least a decade.

CNN wrote that “Her ballot will be thrown out under Wisconsin election law. She is one of several dozen Wisconsinites whose votes will be canceled because they passed away after voting early, according to state Elections Commission data provided to CNN through a public records request.”

In my estimation, and I think in the exceeding majority of reasonably-minded individuals, all votes legally cast should be counted. Some states do count the ballots of voters who cast ballots early, and then died before Election Day, such as Arizona, Florida, Georgia and Ohio.

Again, some, but not all. But why should that even be a question?

However, there are other states that disagree. In fact, there are at least 15 states that DO NOT count the ballots of voters who voted, and then died before Election Day; among them, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky (by an AG’s opinion, 77-667), Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Virginia (again by an AG’s opinion, 10-104) and Wisconsin.

The National Conference of State Legislatures has a webpage that addresses that very question – “What If an Absentee Voter Dies Before Election Day? – and they wrote that, “Like everything else related to elections, the answer varies from state to state.”

“Like everything else related to elections,
the answer varies from state to state.”

If the NCSL has acknowledged the glaring problem, you can be assured that it’s a problem.

They also point out the ridiculousness of even attempting to throw out a deceased voter’s vote by writing in part that, “Regardless of the law, it is hard to retrieve a ballot from someone who has died between casting it and Election Day. Once the absentee ballot has been verified and the ballot is removed from the envelope for counting, the ballot can’t be retraced to the voter—it’s a secret.”

“Catching a ballot, then, is only possible for ballots that are still in their return envelopes. How quickly do election officials get notice of deaths? Fortunately, most statutes make it clear that these ballots are to be rejected only if the election administrators know about the death—and also that if a vote is counted that shouldn’t have been, it does not invalidate the election.”

On their same page, the NCSL also writes that, “Massachusetts has done so most recently, with the enactment of HB 4820 in July: “The absentee or early ballot of any voter who was eligible to vote at the time the ballot was cast shall not be deemed invalid solely because the voter became ineligible to vote by reason by death after casting the ballot.””

Again, the purpose of this entry is to show how a lack of uniformity in our nation’s voting-related laws is harmful to our national unity.

If all 50 states are “doing their own thing” (and they are), where is the unity?

Simply put, there is none.

It’s time for states “doing their own thing” with regard to voting, to come to a screeching halt!

America needs a National Uniform Voting Standards Act! 

Such a law would unify and establish minimum standards to which ALL 50 states MUST comply, which would include matters of polling hours (which should be a minimum of 12 on Election Day), Early Voting dates/times, voting machines, ballot types/design, automatic voter registration, Vote By Mail provisions, and could and should even provide a secure National Photographic Voter ID, and so much more.

Some have called to make General Election Day a National Holiday, in order to increase voter participation. I think there’s merit to that idea.

Some states, such as Tennessee, have a law that requires employers to give employees time off with pay in order to vote. I think there’s merit to that idea, as well.

Some states allow incarcerated felons to vote. I think there’s significant merit to that idea, and it deserves a full discussion – which of necessity, would touch upon the even greater idea that the United States government does NOT guarantee the voting franchise to its citizens, and is, in large part, a matter left up to the states’ discretion… whichever way the wind happens to be blowing that day, week, month, year, or decade. Witness the miasmatic plethora of hodgepodge mishmash confusing voting laws as evidence of that fact.

A National Uniform Voting Standards Act would ELIMINATE the variances and inconsistencies in ALL 50 states with regard to ALL voting-related matters.

It’s high time we began to enact legislation that would UNIFY us by one of our most cherished common denominators – VOTING!

https://www.cnn.com/2020/10/31/politics/voter-death-election-count-invs/index.html

https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2020/08/2020-voting-guide.html

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/ng-interactive/2019/nov/07/which-us-states-hardest-vote-supression-election

2 Responses to “Why America Needs A National Uniform Voting Standards Law”

  1. […] National Uniform Voting Standards Law would eliminate the variances and differences in the 50 states with regard to matters touching upon […]

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  2. […] I have long argued FOR the Congress to establish a National Uniform Voting Standards law, which would unify and consolidate ALL election laws in the nation into ONE SINGLE UNIFORM STANDARD. […]

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