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Focus Of Voting Reform Must Be Inclusion

By Reed Anfinson
Swift County Monitor-News
“Who are to be the electors of the federal representatives? Not the rich, more than the poor; not the learned, more than the ignorant; not the haughty heirs of distinguished names, more than the humble sons of obscurity and unpropitious fortune. The electors are to be the great body of the people of the United States.”
These words written by founding fathers Alexander Hamilton and James Madison in the Federalist Papers were meant to gain approval of the U.S. Constitution then being debated. We know from our history that we have often failed miserably to live up to these ideals.

In the earliest years of our nation, only men with property were allowed to vote. Our bloody Civil War ended with citizenship extended to Blacks. But even with citizenship, they were prevented from going to the polls through discriminatory laws and acts of violence. Women finally gained the right to vote just over 100 years ago with the passage of the 19th amendment in 1920.

But even today, some would deny the right to vote to all citizens through prejudice, greed for power, and fear of giving voice to others whose convictions bring change. In a demographically evolving America, they see they can’t win by the old rules so they would create new ones to enshrine their authority.

“Citizens’ voices have been silenced through voter suppression, gerrymandering, and deceptive tactics. Wealthy campaign donors maintain outsized sway over policy. And the guardrails against discrimination, corruption, and manipulation of the system for personal gain have all been cast aside or eroded,” the Brennan Center for Justice says.

We all agree that faith in our elections must be cherished and nurtured. We agree that election fraud must be rooted out and prevented. We agree that our elections must be free and fair.

To accomplish these goals, we must also agree on a few fundamental principles. Our efforts must not make it more difficult for Americans to vote but rather easier. Laws should not be written that disenfranchise thousands for the goal of preventing a few fraudulent votes. At the same time we work to ensure transparency, we must be dedicated to inclusion.

Legislatures, secretaries of state, and governors, influenced by populist sentiment in the heat of the moment, must not be allowed to overrule the will of the people exercised through the ballot box.

We agree that faith in our elections is vital for believing in the legitimacy of those elected to office, especially if the vote is very close. Candidates have the right to legally challenge the results of an election through courts and recounts.

In 2009, Minnesota Democratic U.S. Senate Candidate Al Franken edged incumbent Republican Sen. Norm Coleman by 225 votes out of nearly 2.9 million votes cast.

In the 2000 presidential election between Democrat Al Gore and Republican George W. Bush, the race came down to a razor-thin margin in Florida. Gore had won the national popular vote but needed Florida to win the Electoral College. With the U.S. Supreme Court finally putting an end to the recount efforts in Florida, Bush won by 537 votes giving him the Electoral College victory 271-266.

Both Democrat Gore and Republican Coleman conceded to their opponents, lending legitimacy to their wins and their service in office.

In the 2020 presidential election, Biden won the national popular election by 7 million votes. He won swing states Michigan by 154,188 votes, Pennsylvania by 81,660, Georgia by 12,670, and Arizona by 10,457. Recounts upheld the margins of victory, and courts throughout the country rejected then President Trump’s challenges to the results.

The U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency said the 2020 election was “the most secure in American history. There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes or was in any way compromised,” Director Chris Krebs, who was appointed by Trump, said.

Yet today, Americans are bitterly divided on faith in our elections with hundreds of bills being introduced in legislatures intent on “restoring integrity” to the electoral process. Nearly 30 states have seen legislation introduced or proposed that would have an impact on voting rights.

As these laws are considered, we must ask to what degree do they enhance our elections’ security and sanctity and to what degree to they suppress voter turnout?

In Minnesota, Democrats have introduced legislation to expand mail-in voting, give felons who have served their time the right to vote, increase the number of mail-in ballot drop boxes, shield election officials from harassment, and increase transparency on who is paying for political advertising. They would permanently end the requirement that mail-in ballots be signed by a witness. The requirement was temporarily suspended for the 2020 elections due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For their part, Republicans in the Minnesota Legislature  are proposing laws to ensure “election integrity.” Requiring a photo ID to vote is at the top of the list.

Many who would be affected by a voter photo ID law are the elderly who no longer maintain a driver’s license, the young who don’t bother to get a license preferring to use public transit and avoid the cost as well as hassle of owning a car, minorities who find it more difficult to get a photo ID, and the poor.

In 2012, an amendment was placed on the ballot to require a photo ID to vote in Minnesota. It was defeated by more than 110,000 votes. To ease objections to their proposal for an ID, Republicans propose the state provide free voter ID cards to citizens.

We haven’t lost faith in our elections because of widespread election fraud but because incessantly repeated false claims have undermined that faith.

Voter fraud isn’t a problem. It is a wedge issue meant to divide us into warring camps to carry false banners into an unnecessary war with the aim of suppressing voter turnout. Hamilton and Madison would be appalled with these efforts.

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