By Stephen Knight
For the past twenty years or more on Election Day, I have stood in front of polling places holding signs for candidates for public office (including myself, I hasten to add). I was never alone, often sharing space with people holding opponents’ signs. It has always been a cordial exercise, with all of us greeting the voters, thanking them for coming out to vote, handing them some little piece of election trinketry, and generally serving as a last reminder to vote for a particular candidate.
During these countless hours, I came to admire the people who made the effort to study the issues, ask questions, recognize candidates they saw, and then take time out of their day to make sure they voted, come rain or shine.
Standing there, I could tell that they were people who took their citizenship responsibilities seriously.
But I am now very concerned that the voting franchise is being watered down. Voting is a right, to be sure, but up until recently that also came with the responsibility to 1) register to vote well prior to a given election, 2) check to make sure you would be available to vote or else secure an absentee ballot, and then 3) show up on Election Day to cast your ballot.
In our state, there has been legislation proposed the net effect of which will absolutely eliminate any sense of civic responsibility on the part of the voter. If enacted, all one would need do to vote is to be able to fog a mirror (granted, in Chicago even that requirement is often circumvented). Here are some of the proposals coming from Democrat legislators in Hartford and Washington:
1. Eliminate Voter ID: Why is it such an offense to ask a person to show a valid identification to vote? How could this possibly be voter suppression, when such ID is so readily available — and free if the person had no such identification? If we want every eligible vote to count, would we also not want those votes to be canceled out by illegal voting?
2. Expand Same-Day Registration: There are approximately 235 days each year in which people can register to vote. If a person is so indifferent to the electoral process that he/she does not think to register prior to an election, why, may I ask, should this person have the opportunity to create Election Day chaos in order to cast their first ballot? If, for 200-plus days a year, you don’t give two hoots about who is elected, how is it that you suddenly have an epiphany on the second Tuesday of November and should be granted that opportunity? What last-second information came to you on that day that all of sudden generated such political insights?
3. No-Excuse Absentee Balloting: Up until now, one would at least have to come up with a reason for not being able to physically show up at the polls. Again I refer to my Election Day experience: I was so proud of my fellow voters to see how some people, despite considerable inconvenience or physical discomfort, would by gosh make sure they went to their polling place. Now we want to open up absentee balloting to every person who just doesn’t want to get off the couch to go and vote. What does that tell you? If a ten-minute drive to the polls (and both major parties will gladly drive you if you need a ride) is too much for you, how much do you know about the candidates running and their political positions on issues? Not much, I’d surmise.
4. Open up municipal voting to 16- and 17-year-olds. Yes, I have indeed met people that age who have the interest and the maturity to know what they’re voting for, but they are a vast minority, most especially in municipal elections. Heck, if we won’t let them smoke until they’re 21 because “their brain isn’t fully developed” to reason out what smoking does to their health, how is it they are mature enough to form valid political judgments on complex issues? If they’re too immature to drive in a car by themselves when they’re 16, how is it that they are sophisticated enough to vote?
5. Allow time off to vote: Here’s one more pernicious, dubious, and self-serving Democrat proposal. State and municipal employees would be allowed to take up to four hours off during their shift to vote.
America’s past certainly includes systematic efforts to prevent many minority individuals from exercising their right to vote. Many safeguards have been successfully implemented that have virtually eliminated those abuses. It is a disservice to those disenfranchised to see how this sacred right — to participate in the process to which they were so long denied — is being diminished by spoon-feeding the uninformed, the indifferent, and the immature.
Stephen Knight is a former Wallingford town councilor.