Why Can't You Vote In America?

It is interesting to observe how people - primarily those on the right - want to deny their fellow Americans the right to vote. Weird laws, restrictive polling hours, understaffed and under-equipped polling locations in primarily poor or minority districts, and onerous registration requirements appear to be the order of the day as the right endeavors to prevent "those" people from voting. The elections themselves have become a travesty as billions of dollars pour in from ... who knows where since the Supremes made their disastrous Citizens United decision.

Our nation is in dire need of serious campaign finance reform combined with a national standard for voting in federal elections.

When I lived in Belgium it was interesting to see how campaigning was time-restricted to a period of (as I remember) about 60 days before an election. Candidates were allotted specific amounts of money to spend based on the importance of the office they were seeking. That money could come from any source, but it was limited. Broadcast advertising was also limited as to times and duration of ads, and of course with limited funds candidates could not blanket an area with false and misleading ads (which were also banned). And surprisingly, their elections went very smoothly.

I have posited previously how I feel we should overhaul our election process. There should be federal standards for federal elections. Let the goofy states (like Arizona) do what they want on local elections, but federal elections would be based on a tight set of rules. We should, as a nation, be encouraging every American to vote - not put up roadblocks making voting difficult and in some cases virtually impossible.

Here are few ideas:

• Each person would be required to register to vote in federal elections. Yes, each American would HAVE to be registered. If they refuse they would pay a fine. Don't want to vote, no problem, you pay a fine - say $100 - and go on your way.

• Federal registration would be based on a firm set of standards and unalterable by any state. No more of the "This ID is OK, but a passport is not" nonsense. Proper ID and proof of being in the United States legally (i.e. a naturalized citizen) is all that would be required. No birth certificate nonsense because many elderly do not have birth certificates nor access to one. It is interesting to note how people who have voted for 50, 60 and 70 years are suddenly being denied the right to vote because they do not have a birth certificate.

• The federal voting registration card would be valid from state to state with no interference allowed by any state. You present the federal election registration card at any polling location, anywhere in the nation, and you can vote. The system would be computer monitored so that once you presented it in order to vote, the card would be blocked from allowing voting anywhere else. This could also be handled on mail-in ballots by bar-coding to indicate you have voted.

• The "voting card" could also serve as a Social Security and Medicare card and, in a perfect world, a driver's license. That would mean having standardized licenses across the nation.

• Each polling location would have a sufficient number of voting machines and staff to handle the expected turnout of that area. No more of the nonsense that we see in Texas, where one Houston polling area (mainly white) has 6,000 voters and another (primarily minority) has 65,000 voters and is being restricted as to polling locations, voting hours, voting machines and poll workers, this thanks to the recent decision of the Supremes. Once again this federal rule could not be altered by any state or municipality.

• Standard voting hours for federal elections would be put in place. Federal elections would be shifted from the second Tuesday in November (a stupid concept in today's world) to the second Saturday AND Sunday of November. Each polling location would be open from 6 a.m. until every person in line has been allowed to cast their ballot.

• Early voting would be permitted at specific locations within each voting precinct, with standard hours running from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. including weekends for two weeks prior to election day.

• Mail balloting will be allowed and obtainable without a bunch of hoop jumping and red tape. And those ballots will be counted beginning on the morning of election day - not "held" for some later time at the discretion of ... who knows?

• Expenditures by politicians would be severely restricted and campaign ads only allowed by the candidate. No third party, PAC or any more of that nonsense would be allowed. No campaign spending or donations from anyone who is not allowed to cast a ballot. In other words, corporations cannot vote, foreign entities cannot vote and neither have the right to be funding campaigns. If you have chosen to not register to vote you also would be barred from donating to a campaign. Only Americans willing to participate in the electoral process would be allowed to donate to a candidate and cast a ballot.

Our voting process in the nation has come under fire as right wing groups rant on and on about "voter fraud" when in fact there is none. We see apocryphal stories about how our soldiers, sailors and Marines were denied the right to vote and how people were huddled in corners filling out absentee ballots for troops stationed overseas. Pure hogwash. Overall we have a relatively clean voting process in the United States - the problems we have stem from an overabundance of money coming from ... who knows? Along with Republican controlled states working very hard to deny voting in any way possible for "those" people.