Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Commission Shamission

As I'm so new to this medium, I have been thinking about how I will introduce myself and my topics. When I imagined writing about voting, I thought I would start with my background, why this is my passion, and where we are in America as voters. That all changed yesterday when a few hours before SOTU, I read the most exciting tweet a voting rights advocate like me could read. Ryan J. Reilly of The Huffington Post, had the scoop that a Presidential Voting Commission was going to be created and the concept unveiled at the speech. What a thrill it was for a few hours, and a frenzy of tweets and speculation from many voting rights advocates flooded my timeline in anticipation... 

But alas in the light of day, or actually shortly after the speech, the excitement and anticipation had been squashed like a bug, as we learned that the Commission would be chaired in a "bi-partisan" fashion by Bob Bauer, former general counsel for the Obama campaign, and Ben Ginsburg. BEN FREAKING GINSBURG. 

Ben Ginsburg. Him. He of the Republican redistricting strategy in the 1990's. He of that most partisan of voting rights case, the 2000 recount. He that advised the Swift Boaters during the Kerry presidential campaign. He that is the epitome of the efforts to suppress the vote.  You can read more (less picked apart) details about him here.

No, no, no, no. The very spirit of the Commission should be a common goal to ensure that voting is as easy and accessible as possible. This is in direct contrast to everything Mr. Ginsburg has done up until now - suppress the vote!

But it gets better. (there really should be a sarcasm font). As I dwelled on the selection of the Chairs of the Commission, Dave Weigel at Slate talked to Michael Yaki, a Democratic appointee on the Commission for Civil Rights who said, "Don't get me wrong, I like the spirit of the commission, but limiting jurisdiction to Election Day when the problems on Election Day relate directly to pre-election day voter suppression efforts may make this Election Assistance Commission, part 2."

You may (or may not) remember The Election Assistance Commission, which was created after the 2000 recount disaster via the Help America Vote Act.  It has a website and everything!  To its credit, it did come up with a series of recommendations that led to early voting, but as Elisabeth MacNamara of the League of Women Voters said after the SOTU last night, 

"We were thus surprised and disappointed that the President did not suggest bold action to ensure that every American citizen can exercise the right to vote. Setting up a commission is not a bold step; it is business as usual. The President could have done much better by pointing to real solutions like that in legislation already introduced on Capitol Hill to require early voting, set limits on waiting times, provide for portable voter registration and set up secure online voter registration."
Right on Ms. MacNamara, I agree! And there's even more to it. There is an amazing coalition of groups and individuals working on ideas and policies that are nonpartisan in nature that will ensure truly that this most fundamental of rights is accessible to all. That will be my focus in sharing as we move on from here...and maybe I'll get a moment to share why I care so much in the first place...

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