Our recent national election contained the most outright, in-your-face cheating and lying of any in my lifetime. Just flat-out scandalous and, at times, illegal behavior. We’ll be living with the after effects for a long, long time. But, it may be just the precursor of the next one. And the next. And the next.
In state after state, the Republican Party - or what’s left of it - was the prime ruinous sponsor and leading miscreant. There may have been some Democrats flouting ethics and laws in some places. But, overwhelmingly, Republicans outdid themselves in despicable, lying behavior. Some are still at it.
The Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in our neighborhood looked straight at the TV camera in her commercials and told of the times she had voted to “protect pre-existing conditions for all Arizonans.” But, her votes in the U.S. House of Representatives, more than 40 of them, were to kill ACA (Obamacare) and some specifically to erase pre-existing conditions. She lost by less than two-percent. Nearly half of all voters apparently believed her.
That’s one case. Across the country, thousands of misleading, false or outright bogus claims and gross behavior. Names like Scott, Kemp, DeSantis, Anderson, Rohrabacher, Hunter, Akin, Kobach, and many more tried every lying trick-in-the-book. Some still are.
Many GOP efforts were to disenfranchise voters - make getting to the polls (especially in Dodge City, Kansas) nearly impossible. Or, legislating Native Americans out of the process. Voting machines with no power cord or were inoperable when installed. Some switching votes electronically. Overseers who were candidates themselves rigging outcomes. (Kemp and Kobach.)
Republican gerrymandering, in some places, meant a Democrat had get more than 60-percent to win. (S. Carolina and Alabama.)
Candidates are who they are. Some qualified. Some not. Some honest. Some not. Too many of the latter - not enough of the former. With the current lack of trust in both national parties, getting better, more qualified people to run is nearly impossible. That’s got to be a priority in 2020.
But, it’s gerrymandering and blocking voters that’s so heinous. Republicans, in many legislatures, used the 2000 census to twist, splice and draw voting districts to their benefit. Now, Democrats say, if they’re in the majority in 2020, they’ll be more honest. I’d like to believe that. But, I don’t. The most accurate description of political power I’ve ever been told was “When they’re in power, they do it to you; when you’re in power, you do it to them.” From an Idaho Democrat.
Several states blocked registered voters - especially Black, Hispanic, Native American - by all sorts of contrived schemes. More than any other factor, that needs to be addressed.
Oregon, in so many instances a leader in creative thinking, has some excellent approaches. One is “motor voter” registration. Register your vehicle and you’re automatically registered to vote. Parties assigned randomly. If you don’t like the assignment, change it. It’ll take several generations to reach 100-percent but, eventually, all Oregonians will be registered voter.
Also, as in Oregon and several other states, voting by mail should be federal law. I realize there are still people who like to go to a polling place. I’m one. I always felt a bit prouder when the little gray-haired lady announced for all to hear, “Barrett Rainey has voted.” But, like so many other things, times have changed. Voting by mail is one of those changes. There are some wrinkles to work out but they’re not insurmountable.
Do away with signatures on ballots. Assign each voter a PIN - personal identification number. Banks worldwide use ‘em. All credit card outfits use ‘em. They know within seconds when one of us hundreds of millions of users buys lunch anywhere in the world. Instead of laboriously checking signature authenticity - which in my case is impossible - check the PIN by high-speed scanner. Cut down or eliminate recounts.
Use a standardized national ballot format. Leave flexibility for states to enter necessary information. But, format all the same. In Florida, a U.S. Senate seat hinges on the way one county laid out its ballot with that race separated from all the others. Exit polling shows some people didn’t see it.
Require all counting to be done electronically. Standardize machines.
There are many more ideas out there. But, the plain fact is, we can’t keep doing things as we are. We can’t do much about political parties or individuals who want to lie, cheat, block and steal. But, no large corporation would run a national business the way we run the most important element of our democracy: voting.
We need our ballots handled accurately and treated with the certainty that our most basic, guaranteed freedom requires. Leaving it to political parties is not the best way to assure that.
Many things must be changed. Updated and streamlined. One of those things seems a natural: “P-I-N it.”