In a nation where voting is the cornerstone of our form of government, how pathetic is it that the following cliche actually makes sense: America can put a man on the Moon, but we can't hold an election without prohibitively long lines and politically-motivated plots to disenfranchise legitimate voters? Dennis Miller, when he was reasonable, once said that leaving important things in the hands of the states is insane because the states "can't fucking pave roads." So, why on earth do we still allow state and local governments to run our elections -- our most sacred civic events?
So, yet again, it's time to make a case for federalizing our elections. State officials have proved in nearly every election why they ought to be stripped of this duty, and to have the entire process run and regulated by a nonpartisan, centralized body to ensure that irresponsible leaders like Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL) or Secretary of State Jon Husted (R-OH) can no longer play political grabass with our representative democracy.
There are two options here. First, and most drastic, the federal government should take over the entire process from top to bottom, including the hiring of regional poll workers; the purchasing of equipment; and enforcement of regulations.
The top-line changes:
1) Enact universal voter registration. When citizens turn 18 or attain citizenship status, they should be automatically registered to vote.
2) Ballots and voting machines should be standardized nationwide and only contracted to fully nonpartisan organizations without any political ties, agendas or connections to political parties or candidates. Software should be bullet-proof, open-source and routinely audited, and ballot-counting should be conducted within the bureaucracy, rather than partisan operatives using corporate machines.
3) Government preclearance should be expanded and enforced. Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act mandates that states where Jim Crow laws were prevalent are required to receive approval from either the Justice Department or federal judges before enacting new voting laws. Clearly this isn't working. In Florida before the 2012 election, a Republican law that restricted early voting was only reversed in five of 67 counties when it clearly should've been struck down throughout the entire state.
4) Early voting should be permanently expanded to a full month nationwide, culminating with the traditional first Tuesday of November.
5) Quite simply, there should be a constitutional amendment turning over the election process to a newly formed regulatory body, thus beefing up the 15th, 19th, 24th and 26th Amendments.
Short of this plan, the states could still conduct elections, but the federal government should establish the rules and regulations, and have the power to enforce those rules, including standardized booths, appropriate availability of booths based on historical turnout and a national standard on early voting and registration. But leaving any of it in the hands of state politicians and precinct volunteers is absurd, given the importance of the task.
Back in August, a study of voter fraud found only 31 cases since 2000. That's 31 cases out of more than a billion votes cast. And yet the states are making it more difficult to vote because of a 0.0000031 percent rate of voter fraud. Imagine undergoing massive radiation and chemotherapy in order to thwart a 0.0000031 percent chance of cancer. Even the most paranoid hypochondriac would turn down the treatment.
The notion of voter fraud is precisely what Florida Republican operative Jim Greer called it in 2012: a ploy. In fact, the real and rampant fraud is being perpetrated by the Republican establishment to the detriment of constitutional rights and the integrity of our electoral process, not to mention a considerable cross-section of Americans who've already endured far too many years of disenfranchisement and suppression. So enough. If the states can't behave like adults, then the real adults need to step in and take over.