Seeking Solidarity: Preserving Voting Rights Preserves Democracy

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We have all heard about the case in Colorado where a dead person apparently voted. While this may be an isolated incident, it has fanned the flames of fearful fanatics fighting for flagrantly fraudulent figures. I apologize; I couldn’t resist the alliteration. In any case, there is no accurate data on how many, if any, unqualified people vote. It is certainly not 1.8 million as Trump says. At the same time, it is not a frivolous issue as some critics on the left seem to make it.

While these instances of voter fraud seem small and isolated, it reveals a systemic problem in our electoral system. How was a dead man able to stay on the voter rolls for so long and then be able to vote? Whether or not voter fraud is common or not does not matter. What matters is that it happens and we need to do all in our power to ensure it does not.

The solutions put forward are varied, but the most famous is the call for voter ID laws. While these seem a surefire method of combating fraud, they have been found to adversely prejudice lower income voters and minorities. They also do not address the underlying issue of inefficient and disparate practices of the numerous voting precincts across the nation.

I propose a two-pronged attack: one to alleviate voter fraud fears and one to address the underlying issues. The elephant in the room in all this debate, however, is that the Virginia Department of Elections is underfunded and poorly staffed. Volunteers count ballots, not some trained ballot-counting professional. So to solve any electoral issue, we first need to realize that we are short-changing perhaps the most important and vital office in our republic. Before any real reforms can be made, we need to ensure that the Board of Elections is not scraping the barrel for funds.

First, we make your voter registration card a photo ID. Radical, I know. This addresses the concerns of all parties. A college intern with a smartphone and an app can register someone to vote, snap a picture in the process, and help alleviate the fears that people who shouldn’t be voting are.

This brings me to my next point. One may object: how does that prevent someone who should not be voting from registering on the street? This is where things get interesting. We need to create better integration and collaboration within government; in other words, we need Governmental Solidarity. Doesn’t it seem common sense would dictate that the department of Vital Records, i.e. the people who keep the death certificates, should be sending the Department of Elections lists of people in the Commonwealth who have died? Shouldn’t the DMV and the Post Office also let them know if someone has moved? These are internal changes that merely require the government to use collaboration software already existing and probably in use to create a more integrated and effective unit. So, if someone registers to vote outside a metro station, the application can be electronically sent to the necessary agencies that can confirm that the person is a resident. And we know they are alive because we snapped a picture of them. We need to update the processes and procedures in the Department of Elections itself. Its technology is outdated and might even disenfranchise people.  We need to drop unqualified (and deceased) voters from the rolls.

The importance of these reforms cannot be mired in partisan politics. The vehicle of our democracy, the lifeblood of our republic is the fact that we have free and fair elections. We cannot do anything that even has the potential of disenfranchising the voter nor can we allow voter fraud to exist or go unpunished. Every citizen has the right to vote and the government has the duty to protect that vote, allow it to be cast in a free and safe environment, and allow the voice of the people to be heard. We can never forget that we are a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. We cannot allow an underfunded office, polling malpractice, inter-agency miscommunication, outdated technology, or other blatantly preventable problems to cause our republic to perish.

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