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Voting in the USA, Essay Example

Pages: 1

Words: 1751

Essay

Introduction

America was established based on a Democracy with a checks-and-balances system to ensure fairness.  A system that intended to promote equality with a majority rules mentality.  However for centuries, limitations have been made to create obstacles for all Americans to participate in their legal Democratic rights.  It went from open racial limitations to “equality” based on proof.  The American electoral system continually regresses instead of progressing with the times.  Protecting the integrity of the democratic process is important, but not at the expense of the American people.  Creating legal obstacles based on minority requirements is nothing more than a legal way to practice discrimination.  The Democratic process of voting can only be effective when it allows all citizens regardless of race, demographics, or governmental identification to cast their vote in the political elections.

Factual Background

The United States first granted the right to vote in 1787, for white males who owned property.   After many different acts had been changed and passed, all white males 21 and older were legally issued the right to vote in 1843.  In 1870, the 15th Amendment changed that law, allowing all men 21 and older, regardless of race, a right to vote.  It was not until 1920, that women who were of the age of 21 or older were allowed to have input, and participate in voting.   Finally, in 1971 the 26th Amendment changed the legal voting age to eighteen years of age or older.  Despite centuries of progression, there is still voter suppression occurring to-date.   The rights that have been given for who can vote is once again under attack.

In 2011, many states passed new laws making it difficult for certain minorities to participate in the voting process.  These minorities included African-Americans, students, individuals with disabilities, and the elderly.  In fact, over thirty states mandated government issued photo ID’s to participate in voting.  States also passed a requirement for voters to show proof of citizens at time of voting.   Seven states shortened the early voting time frames, which limited the times the early voting option.  The new legislation created obstacles that may be too difficult to overcome, eliminating these potential votes.  Creating obstacle for citizens to vote takes away the Democracy that America has proudly practiced for centuries.

The Merits of One Side of the Issue

Changing the voting laws is a means to prevent voter fraud as well as ensure the integrity of the election.  Implementing voting restrictions are a means of voter fraud vigilance.  With the Presidential elections creating such debate and argument, it is becoming increasingly likely that there will be some attempt to misrepresent the majority.  This is called voter fraud.  There are many ways that voter fraud has happened, or attempted to happen.  Legislation has taken these activities seriously and took action to implement laws to prevent it from playing a role in the 2012 Presidential elections.

One way that voter fraud has occurred is through electorate manipulation.  This is an interference of the voting process or the vote counting.  It can also be done by altering the composition of the electorate.  It may not necessarily be illegal, but it violates the democratic principle.  Another concern is when voters manipulate demographics. By moving a large number of voters to an electorate prior to an election, it misrepresents their true residence.  They use temporary addresses to accomplish this.  Limiting the amount of time a voter lives at their residence prior to an election can prevent this from being an issue.  Another way is moving parties by means of public housing, ensuring the vote of these individuals in exchange for the housing.  Disenfranchisement is another means of voter fraud.  This can be done by legislation.   An example would be changing laws that prevent prison inmates or immigrants from voting.  It can also be a required literacy test or other obligations that certain groups would be most likely to fail.  There are many possible ways to misrepresent the majority, and legislation is working on addressing this.

Other concerns of voter fraud include intimidation.  This is when a voter or group is threatened to cast their vote in a specific way or be required to face consequences.  Ways that intimidation can be acted on is through threats of violence, attacks on polling places, economic threats, and legal threats.  Vote buying is another way that fraud occurs.  There was a case where a citizen placed their legal right to vote on eBay for the highest bidder to decide.  This is a perfect example of the type of violations that has had to be legally addressed in the past.  Misinformation is when people provide false or misleading information in order to sway voters.  Political campaigns often contain some type of slander to show why a specific candidate is not the best option for the position.  There are also campaigners who put information in the public’s hand, whether it is accurate or not, in order to gain their vote.

These are examples of ways that voter fraud happens prior to the election, but there is also a need to be concerned about the actual voting process.  One way is confusing or misleading ballot papers.  This is done by using a feature or design that will be very confusing for the voter in hopes of them selecting the desired candidate.  In the 2000 elections, Florida’s butterfly ballots were accused of confusing voters to get a desired outcome.  Ballot stuffing is another means of election fraud.  This is when voters take multiple ballots and vote even though it is suppose to be one vote per person.  This also misrepresents the elections, weighing it in a specific way.  Misreporting of votes is when the ballots are collected and rewritten as applications for proxy votes.  They use names of activists and their friends or relatives as the proxy.   Finally the tampering with the electronic ballot machines is when tampering with the hardware or software alters the recording of the votes.  Legislation feels that changing the current practice to stricter requirements will prevent these types of frauds from surfacing during the election.

The Merits of the Other Side of the Issue

Changing the voting regulations cause unnecessary burdens for eligible voters to participate in their rights given by the Constitution of the United States.  Tova Andrea Wang argues, “Activities that suppress voting are almost always illegitimate, while reforms that increase participation are nearly always legitimate. In short, use and abuse of election laws and policies to suppress votes has obvious detrimental impacts on democracy itself.” (Yang) Limiting the right for voters to utilize their legal voting rights can have a negative impact on the outcome of the election.  The more Americans participating in the electoral system, the stronger our Democracy is.   Encouraging voter turnout should be a higher priority than requiring excessive documentation to vote.

State legislation has addressed the potential for voter fraud along the way.  The integrity of the election essentially has been compromised due to the attempts to suppress the voters.  Still there has been no proof that voter fraud is essentially a real problem that needs to be addressed. There has been occasional, at best, allegations of voter fraud, however there is no proof of such actions taking place.  Despite the Department of Justice’s 2002 “Ballot Access and Voting Integrity Initiative” promising to prosecute allegations of voter fraud, the federal government obtained only 26 convictions or guilty pleas for fraud between 2002 and 2005. And other studies of voter fraud consistently find that it is exceedingly rare – a 2007 Demos study concluded that “voter fraud appears to be very rare” and a 2007 study by the Brennan Center found that “by any measure, voter fraud is extraordinarily rare.” (Voter Suppression)

In addition to having no valid reason or proof to alter the requirements for voting, legislation needs to step back and look at the Constitution of the United States.  The Fifteenth Amendment state,  “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…”  However loopholes and provisions are being added that essentially strip citizens of their voting rights.  If there was any validity to the need for these changes, they would have been revealed throughout time.  Twenty-two cases of voter fraud do not justify the actions that have been taken for the 2012 Presidential election.

An Explanation of My Opinion as to Which Side is Correct

The Democratic process of voting can only be effective when it allows all citizens regardless of race, demographics, or governmental identification to cast their vote in the political elections.  Each side has argued why they feel it is and it is not important to implement the new changes in the voting requirements.  There is a certain amount of grounds for protecting the democratic process, but not at the rights of the citizens.  What legislation is failing to see if the fact that electing a President or voting on issues does not determine how the government will run.  “The Judicial Branch of the U.S. government is in charge of interpreting the laws, and is made up of the Supreme Court and all lesser courts. We do not vote most of them into office.  Romney or Obama can’t do anything singlehandedly and the Executive Branch is partnered with Congress” (Burns) Therefore, the new changes in laws have not proven to be necessary.

Preventing certain groups from their right to vote is not ethical and could even be considered illegal.  The Democratic system is dependent on the majority rules, majority can only be determined if everyone is allowed to have a say.  That is what makes a Democracy strong. These new laws may prevent potential fraud, but with the very few cases that have been proven, there is no real warrant for such extenuating steps.  Targeting the minority, the elderly, students it is not the solution to the potential problem.   The changes that legislation has made to the voting requirements are not necessary.  The opposition to these changes has a stronger case and my personal opinion is they are not ethical or necessary.   The requirements prior to the changes made in 2011 served the majority better in the United States voting process.   There is a need for a revision to these new requirements prior to the next election.

References:

“Voter Suppression in America”.  American Civil Liberties Union.  12 Nov. 2012.  Web.

Yang, Tova Andrea.  “The Politics of Voter Suppression Defending and Expanding Americans’ Right to Vote”, 2012. Print.

Burns, Elizabeth.  “The President isn’t the Answer”.  SSUNews, 2012.  Print.

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