Monday, November 05, 2012

Democracy hindered

I’m writing this a bit in the heat of the moment, and I’ve decided to post it right away, because of how important and timely the subject is. (And as a side note, Word auto-corrected “Romney” to “money” when I wrote it in the second-to-last paragraph, which I found very à-propos.)

When I first heard about the new law in Pennsylvania stating that people would now need picture ID, such as a driver’s license, to vote, I was very surprised. You see, in Quebec, this is already the law and has been for a long time. It seems unthinkable to me that one could vote without proper identification. But then again, in Quebec, everyone has FREE photo ID, thanks to the carte soleil. There are places in the U.S. where people are so poor that they cannot afford a driver’s license (let alone a car). It just so happens that those people usually vote for the Democrat candidate. And while it might seem like voter fraud would be a problem, it turns out that there are only 10 actual cases of voter fraud since 2000 in the United States! So it isn’t something that’s as big a problem as people think. Let me make it clear, though: I think this hinders democracy because House Majority Leader Mike Turzai was caught on tape boasting about this: "... First pro-life legislation – abortion facility regulations – in 22 years, done. Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done." So it’s one thing to make better laws, but it’s quite another to make laws for the purpose of skewing an election – that’s not serving the people.

A new way to hinder democracy is happening now in places like Columbus, Ohio, and Miami, Florida, which also typically vote Democrat. The Republican governors of Ohio and Florida have made it so that early voters waited up to 7 HOURS in line to vote in places like those, to try to discourage Democrat voters from having their voices heard. Partisan design has no place in democracy. I think if the Republicans were true patriots, the party leaders would oppose such measures.

Another thing that bothers me is biased new sources. It’s one thing to be a “low-information voter” if you choose not to read the newspaper, for example, but it’s quite another if your newspaper of choice doesn’t report the truth. One of the big problems in this campaign (on both sides, mind you) was that politicians didn’t stick to facts. Some twisted the truth, some flat-out pulled “facts” out of their ass, and the media reported it all. Politicians suffered no consequences for falsifying facts. The public received corrupted data. I understand that most journalists don’t have the time to fact-check the content of a politician’s speech, and even if they did, it would be hard to point out a politician’s mistakes and lies without appearing to be rooting for his opponent. Journalists report what was said, not whether or not it was true. However, I don’t think it’s fair or reasonable to expect voters to systematically verify things with non-partisan source to get the facts. Being informed should be easy; if you have to dedicate your morning to it, it’s not working. Civic duty doesn’t mean much if you have to jump through hoops to do it. I feel that given how big a problem this was in 2012, the government should put in place an official non-partisan organization to do all the fact-checking and should make its findings mandatory publications in every news source. (For example, a newspaper would have to say “Candidate X. said this and that in his speech. But while this is true, that is false.” So people would know that if they want to vote for Candidate X., they can’t do so on the basis of “that”, and as a matter of fact, they should wonder why the candidate even said “that”.) And perhaps there should be consequences like fines, in increasing amounts, for politicians who continue to say things that are not true.

This isn’t even about who my favorite candidate is. Yes, I’d absolutely vote for Obama if I could, and I have trouble understanding a lot of people who wouldn’t, but Canadian citizens don’t get a say. I don’t even care that Romney paid zero taxes between 1996 and 2009, I just think he’s out of touch with the majority of the population, doesn’t realize that the government is a not-for-profit entity, and says whatever he thinks he should say to get elected instead of where he actually stands. I think that while Romney believes he has good intentions, he would hinder society at large. And while Romney is a problem, Ryan is a menace. I believe that because of partisan news sources and non-accountability for politicians making up data, many people have been blinded to the truth and will vote against their personal interests without even realizing what they’re doing. I mean, I understand that a rich, socially conservative, business owner would be better served by Romney, but I think Obama is better for the greater number of citizens, and is therefore a better choice for the country.

I hope we don’t end up with a political debacle like in 2000; I hope that everyone who is eligible to vote tomorrow gets the chance to do so, and I hope things continue to get better over the next four years as they have over the last four.

1 comment:

Amélie said...

And now Michael Ruhlman just wrote about the election, so here's the link: