As the news cycles through the election coverage, many words and phrases are bounced around. For example, Disenfranchisement, count every ballot, every vote counts, voter fraud, absentee ballots, mail-in ballots, illegal ballots, Constitutional right and so much more. Often these words and phrases are used interchangeably but may not mean what people think. Some of the common phrases are misleading and creates a picture that is inaccurate or worse intentionally misleading.
It is your constitutional right to vote, or is it? May I suggest some light reading of the Constitution. Amendments 15 and 19 address only state that states cannot deny the right to vote because of race, color, previous servitude, or sex. Other amendments have addressed voting changes and lowered voting ages along with some procedural changes. The Constitution does not grant citizens the right to vote directly. Congress can give some broad directives like the time for the Presidential election similar broad ability is given to Congress in regards to both the House and Senate elections. Essentially individual voting is left up to each state to determine. Congress has passed several laws to prevent voting issues universally among states but how elections are administered is left to each State to determine. States each determine the method by which their residents will elect their congressional representatives and how the state’s electoral college for Presidential elections is selected.
Disenfranchisement what exactly does that mean? It means you were deprived or had your right to vote taken away. Typically, this term is used when referring to felons having their ability to vote until they have paid their debt to society. About half of all the States have laws that prevent felons from voting while incarcerated. These laws are put in effect by each state not federally. Disenfranchisement means deprived and for most Americans that cannot occur as polls are open on the election and in all but 6 states there is also the option for in-person early voting. Absentee ballots and mail-in ballots again prevent disenfranchisement although some argued because obtaining absentee ballots required effort on the part of the voter it disenfranchised the voter. That is a blatantly false statement and the term disenfranchised is often inaccurately used in the media. Having a process in place that applies to all state residents cannot be presented as a method that disenfranchises voters.
Let us look at count every ballot and every vote counts. While they are catchy and meaningful phrases is it a reality. There are laws in place in every state that determine the legality of a ballot or vote. Not all ballots and votes are valid and legal. Counting a ballot or vote that does not meet its state’s criteria is illegal. While that may be unpalatable it is the law. It is unfortunate that the rule of law is not factored into count every ballot. The solution isn’t to ignore the law the solution is to change the law if it warrants a change. Counting any ballots that are not legal undermines the value of legally cast ballots. Each state has its own laws concerning voting and it is to the benefit of every American that each state enforces its own laws. That is the only way to have a fair and legal election.
So much attention this election cycle has been spent on absentee and mail-in ballots. Absentee ballots before this election were primarily for voters in the military, those who may be traveling or who or sick. The pandemic caused many states to change their absentee ballot criteria. Mail-in ballots are absentee ballots, many terms were coined this election cycle to differentiate the new methods allowed this election cycle. Many states removed the requirement to have a valid reason to request an absentee ballot. While others added the pandemic as a legitimate reason to request a ballot. Many concerns came with the states that mass-mailed ballots to everyone in their state without voters having requested it. Many have argued voter fraud could be the result of the decision to mass mail ballots. Others countered that because of the pandemic mail-in ballots should be utilized. The universal concern with ballots was getting to their desired destination in a timely fashion. Here is where much confusion occurred each state could make its own determinations but also had to do so within the confines of the laws that govern that state.
Every election has issues. Some of these issues could be addressed but the states have failed to do so. In the meantime, voters can continue to educate themselves on the process and rules that their state has and make sure to adhere to them. Also, it is important to know the differences and understand the nuances of the verbiage thrown about in the media so we remain an informed republic exercising our democratic duty of voting.
Enjoy what you read? Follow me on FB at Maria Ecrivain and on Twitter @M.E. Speaks1. Stay informed and keep it real! -M.E.