Voting Rights and Wrongs – The American Conservative
Your humble columnist did not always have his registration or identification in voting order.
After discussing the matter at length with both my wife and my father confessor, I have decided that it is finally time to speak out about a series of traumatic incidents from my past. My decision to speak up was not made lightly. Even now I realize that I’m hesitating. But to remain silent at this point while the fate of our democracy is at stake would be inexcusable.
In 2012, I made a last-minute attempt to vote in the presidential election, largely because I had opinions about the ballot initiative that would eventually legalize so-called “medical cannabis” in the state of Michigan. When I got to what I thought would be my designated polling station, I was turned away at the door. According to the designated election observers, two gray-haired Democratic librarians of a breed that is vanishingly rare today, I wasn’t registered in that department. They also said my driver’s license had expired. They just couldn’t allow me to cast even a tentative vote.
This grotesque violation of my civil liberties would be perpetuated years later, when I returned to the largest state in the Union after half a decade in Washington, DC. Here, the clerk at the Secretary of State who issued me a new Michigan driver’s license after I paid for several outstanding tickets over the phone didn’t ask me if I wanted to register to vote, even though she had done the same for my wife a few weeks earlier. That meant that a few years later, when I tried to take a few minutes away from work to vote for Tulsi Gabbard in the 2016 Michigan Democratic Primary, I was again denied my “right to vote.”
I wish I could say I was joking about all of the above, but I have been solemnly assured by Democratic politicians, including our President during his recent trip to Georgia, that both of these seemingly harmless incidents were not the result of my own laziness (and petty crime) but hardships worthy of a Jim Crow. To insist that a person wishing to vote in a presidential election vote in the correct place with valid photo ID is tantamount to denying the right to vote itself.
I suppose that’s why Kyrsten Sinema, apparently the second openly LGBTQIA+ woman elected to the US Senate and former co-host of a 9/11 Truther radio show, is now a hate figure in progressive circles is. Look, Sinema has discovered that sitting on the cusp between the two parties is an enviable position in an evenly divided House of Lords. As I write this, Sinema is being threatened with primary challenges and having a significant portion of her donor support withdrawn for not supporting the abolition of the filibuster – don’t ask me what that means – in order to say goodbye to what mainstream newspapers are now getting down to refer uniformly as “suffrage” legislation.
I’m still not entirely sure what that phrase means. If the proposed legislation is any indication, “right to vote” means being able to request what we still quaintly call “mail-by-vote” months in advance to deposit those slips virtually anywhere on Registering in line for election day without a driver’s license (even though the mail-in ballot has somehow been “harvested”) and God knows what else. By these standards, up until last fall, virtually no one in this country’s history enjoyed voting rights.
How on earth this maximalist understanding of voting rights is compatible with vaccination regulations (which also require photo identification lest some prankster borrow his friend’s CDC-issued piece of tissue paper) I can’t say. Part of me wishes a cynical Republican would propose a new bipartisan deal that would include a nationwide vaccination mandate to vote on.
But what I really hate about all of this meta talk is the bad faith on both sides. By now it should be possible for intelligent adults to discuss the electoral calculations of our two major political parties, one of which benefits from lax electoral regulations, the other seemingly–I’m not quite sure whether she’s right about that–benefits from sensible restrictions.
Rather than siding with either party, I should get my own views straight: it would be a happier world if we didn’t vote at all, but otherwise I wouldn’t need any more ID to vote than I do to vote to buy from alcoholic beverages or tobacco. I would also abolish driver’s licenses to drive motor vehicles, which in any case do not significantly improve the quality of drivers. Until the world agrees with me, however, I will continue to lament the heavy burdens placed on me last November when I was forced to cast a provisional ballot despite three years of uninterrupted – and exorbitant – property taxes.
yours in battle.
Matthew Walther is publisher of The lamp and co-editor of The American Conservative.