More voters greeting "election reform" law with a yawn

AP Photo/Brynn Anderson

In Texas, as with much of the rest of the country, I’m sure, people from both sides of the ideological aisle are waiting to see what challenges Congress will address under the new administration. In some cases, they’re probably equally hopeful that some of these schemes will never see the light of day. The Associated Press spoke with a group of Texans of all persuasions to see which issues were at or near the top of their list. The results included quite a few of the issues you would likely expect, including everything from unemployment and climate change to border security and tax increases. But there was one subject almost entirely absent from the list. Virtually nobody was fretting over the For the People Act or “voting reform” measures currently being debated.

As politicians from Austin, Texas, to Washington, D.C., battle over the practical aspects of how to run elections — clashing over details such as polling booth hours and the number of ballot drop boxes per county — many voters are disconnected from the fight. A passionate base of voters and activists on both sides may be intensely dialed in on the issue, but a disengaged middle is baffled at the attention.

“Unemployment, climate change — this stuff should be on the top of the list, not the voting thing,” said [Binod] Neupane, 34.

That disconnect is now the challenge before Democrats, who are trying to marshal public support for federal legislation that would thwart a series of new state laws tightening election procedures. With rallies, ads, White House events and a certain-to-fail vote in the Senate this coming week, Democrats are aiming to fire up their voters around the issue, hoping their passions hold through next year’s midterms.

Being that this is Texas we’re talking about, it shouldn’t be surprising that a lot of the voters the AP spoke to are concerned over the heatwave they’re facing right now and whether or not the state has taken precautions to avoid another blackout like the one they faced in February. One pipeline worker who has been out of a job for months wondered what he was going to do now that the new administration is trying to put a halt to all pipeline construction.

This just seems to be yet another example of legislators at both the national and state levels being totally out of touch with what average citizens are concerned about. This leads the media to dwell on some of these subjects endlessly, assuming that everyone will be getting on board on one side of the topic or the other. But even many of these Texans have no idea why the state legislature is fighting so much over changing the state’s voting laws. Some of them agreed with what the GOP majority was trying to do while others opposed it. But almost none of them ranked the issue as one of their primary concerns.

As usual, I would prefer to stick with past precedents handed down by the Supreme Court and allow each state to set their own rules regarding how elections are conducted. And even if we were going to try to “standardize” the rules for the states, I would hope that most sensible people would be running screaming toward the exits if that standardization was based on rules that helped spur the dumpster fire that the 2020 election wound up being. Mandating massive mail-in voting would be about the worst thing we could do. And the earlier you start the voting, the greater the chance that voters will miss some piece of late-breaking information that might affect their decisions.

The For the People Act also seeks to essentially ban voter ID requirements, despite the fact that numerous states have enacted those requirements. Of course, the same people pushing for this ban are fine with people having to show their ID for everything from a COVID vaccination to a fishing license. Heck, I had to show mine at the credit union this morning just to get a notary public to verify some contracts I had to mail out. If you don’t have problems with that behemoth of a bill, I really don’t know what to tell you.

But as I mentioned above, this is more a question of disconnected politicians than anything else, and it’s a problem that shows up periodically in both parties. Republicans at the federal level have, for a long time now, seemed to believe that a majority of the country wanted to get rid of Obamacare because they didn’t want any sort of national health insurance program. But it’s become clear that what most of them really wanted was a plan that actually worked for the economically disadvantaged while not damaging or eliminating their opportunity to keep a plan that they actually like through their employers. Meanwhile, Democrats continue to cling to the idea that defunding or abolishing the police is popular. Spoiler alert: it’s not popular at all outside of certain activist organizations.

But still, Congress will continue eating up the available time on the calendar to fight over this “voting reform” act without once letting us know where all of these people who are supposedly having trouble registering and voting can be found. Then again, perhaps it’s for the best. If they weren’t wasting their time on this, God only knows what else they might be trying to ram through.

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Jazz Shaw 8:30 AM | February 25, 2024