Summer is winding down and that means the 2016 primaries are truly coming to the fore. Not only will political junkies and nerds be obsessively poring over news stories and polling numbers, but ordinary Americans with actual lives will also begin to tune in.
As Republicans attempt to hold their gains in Congress and pick up the White House, liberal commentators will no doubt spout equal parts dismissive scorn for their past midterm victories and supreme confidence that they will retain the presidency yet again (assuming they continue to be unbothered by their FBI-investigated standard bearer). The key, they assert, is turnout.
Democrats realize that efficient turn-out-the-vote campaigns have been crucial to winning elections, so their elected officials (or what remain of them) have used their power to transparently increase their own odds of winning. They have mailed ballots to every eligible voter without any method of guaranteeing the veracity of those votes. They have pushed for drivers’ licenses and even voting rights for illegal immigrants, which they hope will preclude full bestowment of citizenship. They have turned Election Day into Election Week into Election Month – with each expansion more difficult to reverse, lest advocates for a more conventional voting process are faced with the accusation of violating civil rights.
Their philosophical justification for these moves requires a misreading of the American political system. The standard boilerplate is that making voting easier makes the political process more democratic (and coincidentally, more Democratic too). And of course, more democracy is always better for American politics.
Lest we forget, America is a republic and not a democracy. This isn’t just pedantry when one realizes that the framers of the Constitution purposefully built safeguards against pure democracy, which they might characterize as mob rule. The peoples’ voice is crucial and irreplaceable, but can be just as oppressive as that of the government – which is why a republic is rightfully a nation of laws and not of men. This is one of the major benefits of separation of powers and government checks and balances – nobody simply enact sweeping changes after a single election. But by pointing to political gridlock and low voter turnout, it is a simple and potent argument to say that America can only be saved with more democracy.
Liberal measures to compel turnout do not make it likelier that the average voter will be more civically responsible. Rather, it will probably just dilute the influence of voters who are already informed or motivated enough to show up to the polls without persistent cajoling. Coincidentally, this policy happens to benefit Democrats very much – polls have confirmed that likely voters are more likely to favor Republicans, while Democratic voters are less interested in critically important midterm elections. It is easy to see why relying on uninformed voters to save American government – for the sake of being able to say that more people showed up – is ill-advised.
Republican attempts to reduce early voting should be understood in the context of Democratic overreach that reduces the quality of public discourse. This is not just because apathetic voters will be more likely to participate in an election they have not followed, but even the most informed voter can miss relevant details by voting too early and missing new details about the candidates that emerge at the last minute. Recall that the revelation that George W. Bush pleaded guilty to a DUI occurred four days before the 2000 election, or that the 2012 presidential debates concluded only 16 days before Election Day.
Still, these differences on election law between Republicans and Democrats mostly amount to disagreements about when and how legitimate voters should be allowed to cast ballots. It may be seen as an act of desperation at best or an inappropriate abuse of power at worst when a political party changes the law in its favor because it cannot win among consistently informed and motivated voters. However, the controversy over voter ID laws – which the media is often all-too-happy to shallowly discuss as “voter suppression” – is much less defensible for liberals. The consequence of blocking these reforms is the permitting of illegal ballots by ineligible voters, which also happen to disproportionately benefit one side. Democrats have managed to obfuscate the naked self-interest of their voter ID opposition by continuing their vague appeals to democracy and leveling racial attacks against Republicans.
The crux of their argument is that those who are least likely to have any kind of government-sanctioned ID – and seriously, it is hard to emphasize how difficult it is to function in modern America without one – are more likely to be elderly, students, poor, or minorities. Democrats assert that acquiring and maintaining a valid ID is sufficiently time-consuming for, say, a single mother working two jobs, so that it basically constitutes a de facto poll tax.
So many everyday citizen interactions with businesses and government agencies require a legal ID that this point is basically moot for the vast majority of eligible voters. Furthermore, states with voter ID laws are legally required to make IDs sufficiently accessible and free of charge. However, the Left will always point to any inconvenience as an unacceptable roadblock to voting. The problem with this is that, at some point, one has to go out of his way and make a conscious effort to enroll in the first place.
Some Democrats have sought to automatically register everybody who happens to visit at DMV (see: desperation), but nobody seriously argues that requiring someone to register to vote is a violation of their Constitutional rights. When push comes to shove, potential voters will need to somehow prove who they are. There is something fundamentally wrong if an American has literally no means of attaining proof of his own identity, and one would be hard-pressed to blame that on some vast right-wing conspiracy to steal elections.
Indeed, it is an impressive feat of political handiwork that Democrats have poisoned the well for a measure as simple and popular as requiring proof of identification to vote. It nicely summarizes the essence of the modern Democratic Party that they will turn a common sense policy to confirm somebody’s identity into the latter-day incarnation of Jim Crow. 65% of blacks and 64% of Hispanics support a policy that only a racist could possibly propose, apparently.
Democrats also insist that voter ID measures are unnecessary, and that the Republican argument of protecting electoral integrity is insincere, since there is no evidence of voter fraud serious enough to justify such new laws. Besides the fact that it is unacceptable to wait for voter fraud to occur before implementing common-sense protections, this sweeping denial of such fraud is wrong on its face. While relatively few people are convicted of voter fraud – which is just as likely an indication of the government’s limited ability or inclination to prevent it – there are numerous examples of mismanaged voter records and of noncitizen voting.
One startling study shows that noncitizen voting actually changed the results of the Electoral College and Congressional races in Democrats’ favor in 2008. Furthermore, an estimated 14% of noncitizens in the US were registered to vote in 2008 and 2010, with 6.4% actually casting votes in 2008 and 2.2% in 2010 (Democrats apparently cannot even turn out illegal voters during those pesky midterm elections). Voter ID laws are a simple way to address some of these issues, but even more extensive electoral reforms would be needed to significantly stamp out others – such as mistakes in voter rolls.
It is absolutely insane that this kind of malfeasance is tolerated and rarely discussed – yet showing a driver’s license at the polls is considered the death knell of democracy. Issues like immigration reform are hotly contested because conservatives are rightfully angry at the prospect of granting voting rights to millions of people who are only here by virtue of the fact that they ignored US immigration laws. Despite the optimism of moderate Republicans who think that these votes can be won over, this would certainly spell disaster for conservatism and either the destruction or leftward transformation of the GOP. Of course even if 11 million Ted Cruzes lived here illegally, it would still be wrong to allow them to vote.
But amnesty would only run up the scoreboard – Democrats have already tangibly benefitted from noncitizen voting. Their efforts to cajole apathetic and uninformed citizens to come out to the polls are a matter of political tactics by comparison. Turning a blind eye to voter fraud and blocking the simplest protections is downright lawless and un-American.
Future election cycles will be determined by a lot of factors. Voters will shift between the parties and candidates based on their ideas and personal appeal. But if conservatives do not prevail over the Democrats’ divisive rhetoric and self-serving voting policies, it will be that much harder. The law itself will be written against them, fair voting made impossible to enforce, and elections stolen for years to come.