How difficult would you like to see voting made?
Election day is almost here in the USA. And questions about how voting should proceed are swirling. What sort of ID should a voter have to show to vote? How many polling places should be available? How many hours should voting be possible? All these have become contentious issues this year in an election where Republicans in the USA see a partisan advantage in making voting more difficult. They hope to limit voting among certain groups who traditionally vote Democratic by making the qualifications to vote tough enough that a significant part of those Democratic demographics can’t easily meet the standards, or by limiting poling-place access so that the poor and those with limited transportation availability simply can’t tough out the process. See reference 1, 2, and 3 for more background information if you are unaware of the details of this debate.
Of course, in a world where the only constant is change, setting up onerous rules that seem to give one partisan group an edge can easily backfire in a future we can’t yet see. Shifts in the fortunes and sizes of demographic groups can push what looked like a great advantage when it was enacted into a deep liability. Consider how the solidly Dixiecrat South abandoned the Democratic Party after Democratic President Lyndon Johnson sent Federal troops into Alabama to enforce the “Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Civil Rights Act. Today, many young people don’t even know that for 100 years after the Civil War where the North was led by Republican President Abraham Lincoln, the South was solidly Democratic. It’s been Red so long now it’s hard to imagine a South that was ever Blue. Stuff happens. Things change.
So given all that, should we expand voting rights, contract them, or leave the system pretty much as it has been? After all, while it’s often cited as the rationale behind major changes, there is virtually no evidence of widespread voter fraud. Huge efforts have been expended to root out such fraud and stop it, yet there have been only a handful of real instances of it identified over the past decade. And note that voting improprieties are far more frequent among campaign officials, election officials, and third-party organizations than actual voters. Such institutional impropriety wields a far greater influence on election outcomes than the scant few cases of individual voter fraud can possibly do, and none of the proposed voting changes do anything to prevent systemic fraud.