In The New York Times today, Ethan Bonner looks at America's voting wars and concludes that our system is flawed because -- I'm sure this won't surprise you -- both sides are to blame:
... states have consistently failed to fix a wide range of electoral flaws identified by a bipartisan commission led by former President Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State James A. Baker III in 2005....Everything is the fault of partisanship and mutual suspicion. Nothing is the fault of one party more than the other -- or if something is the fault of one party, it's offset by something, presumably equally disconcerting, that's the fault of the other party.
The panel suggested changes including impartial election administration, better voter list maintenance, uniform photo ID requirements and paper trails for electronic voting machines. But Republicans in some states liked the ideas that fit their notion of what was wrong -- potential for fraud. And Democrats preferred others -- increasing voter participation. Little was done.
"This has all become incredibly politicized in recent years," noted Daniel Tokaji, an election law professor at Ohio State University. "If you go back in our history, you can find voter registration rules used to exclude blacks or immigrants from voting. But since 2000 it seems to have gotten worse. Both parties have realized that election administration rules can make the difference between victory and defeat in a close election. And unlike virtually every other country in the world, our systems are administered by partisan officials elected as candidates of their parties."
... Lawrence Norden, a co-author of the study and deputy director of the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program, said that in Texas machines in 50 counties are set up so that if a voter marks a straight party option and also pulls the levers for the candidates, that vote gets annulled. Research has shown that blacks and Latinos tend to do this more often than others, leading Democrats there to try to change the design but to little avail.
Looking broadly at such design flaws, Mr. Norden said he doubted that they were set up to suppress voting and were most likely the result of error. But because of mutual suspicion between the parties, they have been hard to fix....
This would be fine if the results were identical. But as one quoted expert puts it:
"Republicans are very much in favor of cleaning up and maintaining voter lists and Democrats want to make sure access is available...."But those things are equivalent only if you believe that preventing legitimate voters from voting is morally equivalent to the results of Democratic voter-access initiatives. Another quoted expert blithely suggests that, according to a survey he's done, a mere 1.2% of voters don't have the photo IDs Republicans want from all voters (as if 1.2% vote suppression isn't enough to tip an election, e.g., Florida 2000). To see what the two parties are doing as equivalent, you have to argue that Democrats might put 1.2% of ineligible voters into voting booths.
No one quoted argues that, or even hints at it. And yet both sides are the problem because ... well, just because.
Thanks, New York Times, for this informative report.