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Mnemosyne

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Three times in the history of the United States the constitution has been amended to ensure that the right to vote will not be infringed upon by the federal government or the states due to race, sex, or age. The problem is that there is no constitutionally protected right to vote in a national election. If state legislatures wanted to they could pick the electors for presidential elections. In addition, there are very few federal standards for elections for the President of the United States in regards to voting equipment, knowledge of poll workers, and the casting and counting of provisional ballots. The combination of these two problems poses a serious threat to democracy in America.
The current system allows for a remarkable potential for election fraud. In the 2004 presidential election there were average people informing the poll workers what a provisional ballot is. What happened in all the places where poll workers did not know what to do with a provisional ballot? There were also scam campaigns that occurred to direct people to the wrong polling place where they waited in lines for hours before they learned that they were in the wrong location but could cast a provisional ballot–which as already stated might not have been counted. It is becoming more and more evident that the American people do not trust the election system. According to the United States elections project only 60.7% of registered voters voted on Election Day. In contrast, 72% of Iraqis voted on January 5 despite the possible threat to their lives simply for showing up. As John Locke wrote in his Two Treatises on Government the power of the government derives from the consent of the governed. If the American people continue to not believe in the system the belief will eventually snowball into not believing in the people that it elects. If people do not believe in the system it can not work.
The first problem that needs to be rectified is the lack of a constitutional right to vote. There are currently several Congressmen, including Congressman Jesse Jackson jr., who are pushing for this amendment to be passed. This is because the right to vote is not the same in every state. How is it that in a national election some people would be able to vote in some states but not in other states? For example, there are 11 states in which the convicted felons are not allowed to vote. Furthermore, the United States is one of only 11 out of 118 democratic countries that does not have a constitutionally protected right to vote. The new constitutions in Afghanistan and for the Iraqi interim government even guarantee the right to vote. With bi-partisan support there is no reason why an amendment guaranteeing the right to vote would not pass. The amendment would pave the way for regulations regarding Election Day practices in order to standardize the voting process in national elections.
Voting machinery also needs to be more standardized. Certain paper and punch hole ballots are much more likely not to be counted due to the potential for inconclusive results. This means that districts with electronic voting machines, usually white, republican, rural areas, are more likely to have their voice heard than minority, urban, and democratic districts due to an unequal distribution of voting machines. The type of ballot does not only influence the percentage of votes counted but also the number of people who vote in a district. Long lines resulting from technologically inferior voting machines discourage people from voting because they do not have the time to wait in a long line.
Many people believe that electronic voting machines are unreliable and a security risk. However, as demonstrated in Delaware, the only state with a uniform voting system, electronic voting machines are very secure. They are not connected to the internet so they are not vulnerable to hackers. Password access is also required to review and validate the results. The security of the machines is also demonstrated by the confidence the losers of elections have in them. During the last election two house seats from Sussex were won by 50 votes or less. The losers were quoted as saying “We trust the integrity of the voting machines” and they did not ask for a recount despite the incredibly close results. While the state of Delaware’s population is only a small portion of that of the United States and it would take time to implement the changes that are effectively working there the benefits would be well worth it.
America is making a few strides to help fix the problem of national elections. Legislation such as the Help America Vote Act 2002 has helped to ease some of the problems demonstrated by the 2000 election but there are still many problems that need to be solved.

Frank B. Calio. 2003. “Voting machines are reliable,” Delaware Voice. Dec 26, 2003
Congressman Jesse Jackson jr. 2005. “Our voting system needs a new constitutional foundation,” Floor statement during challenge to Ohio election. Jan 6, 2005
Dan Seligson. 2004. “After election voting elections remain unsettled,” Campaigns and Elections. Dec 1, 2004
D Lindley Young. 2004. “Blessed are those that think they do not have to do something about it,” The Modern Tribute Dec 13, 2004

Evaluations of Mnemosyne by Nichi

I agree with your paper and you make a very good argument! Good Job! I would make the introduction a little more clear and precise, because the first sentence is a little confusing when you say there is no constitutional right, but then you say that the constitution has been amended for the right to vote, but then you say throughout your paper the lack of "the right to vote" in the constitution. I understand what youre saying, but it's just a suggestion to make the paper a bit more concise. You state many groups, laws, and organizations that are already involved and that is great. You can really tell that you did your research and that you know what you are talking about!! KatGT0


I thought you paper was very good. I agree with KatGT that you need to make your introduction a little clearer. It is a very good idea, just could use a little tweaking to make sure that you do not confuse the reader. Overall it is a very well written, well thought out essay. Good Job! golf2627

FINAL PAPER:



Three times in the history of the United States the Constitution has been amended to ensure that the right to vote will not be infringed upon by the federal government or the states due to race, sex, or age. Even so there is no constitutionally protected right for everyone to vote in a national election. The only mandate is that the right to vote goes to all or none–and it doesn’t matter which. State legislatures could pick the electors for presidential elections and the only consequence would be public outcry. Furthermore, there are very few federal standards that apply to presidential elections in the United States in regards to voting equipment, knowledge of poll workers, and the casting and counting of provisional ballots. The combination of these issues poses a serious threat to democracy in America.

The current system allows for a significant potential for election fraud. In the 2004 presidential election there were average people waiting in line to vote informing the poll workers what a provisional ballot is (Seligson, 2004). In the 2004 Presidential election there were 155,428 provisional ballots cast in the state of Ohio alone (dKosopedia, 2004). Ohio accounts for only four percent of the national population, so statistically there should be 3,885,700 provisional ballots nation wide (Census bureau, 2003). There were also scam campaigns that occurred to direct people to the wrong polling place where they waited in lines for hours before learning they were in the wrong location but could cast a provisional ballot, which may or may not have been counted (Young, 2004).

It is becoming more and more evident that the American people do not trust the election system. According to the United States elections project only sixty point seven percent of registered, not eligible, voters voted on Election Day. In contrast, seventy percent of Iraqis voted on January 5 despite the possible threat to their lives simply for showing up. As John Locke wrote in his Two Treatises on Government the power of the government derives from the consent of the governed. If the ruler does not have the consent of the governed from the out set Locke referred to the type government as “mere tyranny.” If the American people continue not to participate in the election process people will not believe in the officials that are elected. If people do not believe in the system it can not work. Democracy must not be allowed to fail; especially when it is in our power to preserve it.

The first problem that needs to be rectified is the lack of a constitutional right to vote. There are currently several Congressmen, including Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., who are advocating for such an amendment. This is because the right to vote is not the same in every state. How is it that in a national election some people would be able to vote in some states but not in others? For example, there are eleven states in which convicted felons are not allowed to vote. While in Maine, Vermont and Massachusetts even interred felons have the right to vote (Knowles, 2004). In 2002 there were 1,051,000 felony convictions in state courts alone. Sixty-nine percent of them were sentenced to either prison or jail (Justice Dept., 2002). Depending on where they are located in the country, election results could change dramatically. Furthermore, the United States is one of only eleven out of one hundred eighteen democratic countries that does not have a constitutionally protected right to vote. The new constitutions in Afghanistan and the Iraqi interim government both guarantee everyone the right to vote (Jackson, 2005). With bi-partisan support there is no reason why an amendment guaranteeing the right to vote would not pass. The amendment should pave the way for regulations regarding election day practices and allow the standardization of the voting process in national elections.

Voting machinery also needs to be more uniform. Certain paper and punch hole ballots are more likely not to be counted due to the potential for inconclusive results. This means that districts with electronic voting machines, usually white, republican, rural areas, are more likely to have their voice heard than minority, urban, and democratic districts due to an unequal distribution of more efficient voting machines (Young, 2004). The type of ballot does not only influence the percentage of votes counted but also the number of people who vote. Long lines resulting from technologically inferior voting machines discourage people from voting because they do not have the time to wait in a long line; they need to go to work and make a living.

Many people believe that electronic voting machines are unreliable and a security risk. However, as demonstrated in Delaware, the only state with a uniform voting system, electronic voting machines are very secure. They are not connected to the internet so they are not vulnerable to hackers. Password access is also required to review and validate the results. The security of the machines is also demonstrated by the confidence the losers of elections have in them. During the last election two house seats from Sussex, Delaware were won by fifty votes or less. The losers were quoted as saying “We trust the integrity of the voting machines” and they did not ask for a recount despite the incredibly close results (Calio, 2003). While the state of Delaware’s population is only a small portion of that of the United States and it would take time to implement the changes that are effectively working there, the benefits of electronic voting would be well worth the time and expense.

America is making a few strides to help fix the problem of national elections. Legislation such as the Help America Vote Act of 2002, which has the goal of providing money to states to update voting machinery and the create minimum standards for some aspects of national elections, has helped to ease some of the problems demonstrated by the 2000 election(public law 107-252, 2002). Unfortunately there are still many problems that need to be solved, and they need to be addressed now. This is not a problem that can be allowed to grow, for the larger it gets the harder it is to solve.

Calio, Frank B. 2003. “Voting machines are reliable,” Delaware Voice. Dec 26, 2003
Census Bureau. 2003. “Ohio quick facts” [webpage] http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/39000.html
dKosopedia. 2004. “2004 Ohio irregularities” [webpage] http://dkosopedia.com/index.php/2004_Ohio_Irregularities_-_Provisional_Ballots [accessed April 2005]
Jackson jr., Jesse. 2005. “Our voting system needs a new constitutional foundation,” Floor statement during challenge to Ohio election. Jan 6, 2005
Justice Department. 2002. “Felony convictions in state courts” [webpage] http://ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/glance/tables/felcovtab.htm [accessed January 2005]
Knowles, Bryan. 2000. “Should convicted felons have voting rights?” [webpage] http://speakout.com/activist/issue_briefs/1289b-1.html [accessed January, 2005]
Public law 107-252. 2002. “Help America Vote Act 2002” [webpage] http://www.usdj.gov/crt/voting/hava/HAVA_2002.html [accessed January 2005]
Seligson, Dan. 2004. “After election voting elections remain unsettled,” Campaigns and Elections. Dec 1, 2004
Young, D Lindley. 2004. “Blessed are those that think they do not have to do something about it,” The Modern Tribute Dec 13, 2004

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