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Liddick: Voting is serious business

by Morgan Liddick

Okay, it’s official. The majority party in the State Assembly has joined the snakes-and-weasels brigade.

I’m not talking about the soak-the-consumer elements of HBs 1001 and 1365, touted as the solution to all of Colorado’s energy and air-pollution problems – although you might want to take a long look at this month’s electricity bill. You’re going to be nostalgic about these “good old days” when all the subsidies, regulations and mandates in these laws come into effect. Which is the more discouraging when one realizes that all the folderol in the new laws is designed to “get out ahead” of assumed EPA restrictions on carbon dioxide – a gas we all produce by breathing. If current trends continue, we’ll eventually have to deal with this deadly pollutant by sticking our heads in buckets of cement and waiting until it dries. I vote the members of Greenpeace go first, to save the planet.

But no, that’s really not the straw that broke the camel’s back. Instead, it’s a bill to be introduced this week that will allow voter registration in Colorado right up to Election Day.

The Democrats pushing this bill forward emphasize the usual twaddle about better serving the “underserved” and “disenfranchised” voters of our fair state. Excuse me? How easy is it already to register to vote in Colorado? When I did so, I noticed no particular impediment. I filled out a card, and that was that. Nowadays, you can even do it online, if you have a Colorado-issued ID or driver’s license. The only strictures are that you register 29 days before the election in which you wish to vote, and that you can prove you are allowed by law to vote here – both of which do not strike me as especially “disenfranchising.”

Perhaps it’s my experience as an election observer in foreign countries that makes me dubious about the need for extra convenience when it comes to exercising the franchise. I’ve seen people stand in line for hours in the snow to crowd into a polling place the size of a linen closet. I’ve seen people vote in rooms full of “standover men” – brawny guys in short haircuts and black leather bathrobes who exhibit an unhealthy curiosity about people’s voting habits. I’ve seen voter-status confirmation stations erupt in brawls over the wholesale exclusion of members of an opposition party. Those are examples of actual disenfranchisement. Exclusion of electors who are without credential or are too heedless to register in a timely fashion are not.

So why would such laxity regarding registration, coupled with a proposal to allow all elections to offer a mail-in ballot, even be considered? The immediate suspicion is, to make voter fraud less easy to detect. And although House Speaker Terrance Carroll, who will introduce the bill in question, points out that there have been no detectable cases of fraud in states where such provisions have been enacted, that might be nothing more than proof of the efficacy of the move.

Let us assume, however, that the Speaker is correct. That still leaves the problem of a process which caters ever more to the lazy and ignorant. If one is unaware of the requirements for voter registration in Colorado, what is the likelihood one is informed on the issues in anything like a thorough way? This is the heart of the objection.

A person who is so dismissive of the electoral process that he or she will wait until Election Day to decide whether to play another round of “Halo 4,” watch Judge Judy or go register and vote for those who will govern our state and country is someone who will more likely be swayed by empty promises of personal benefit or by a question’s position on the ballot than one who has taken the time to do the necessary preparation beforehand. I would trust the selections of the latter over the former, as more probably based on reason and analysis..

I would prefer that the registration process be more demanding, not less. Voter registration to be by personal appearance on alternate Thursdays only, on the 10th floor of a building without elevators. Special provisions for the disabled; everyone else, hit the stairs. And yes, that would make it a self-selecting process that discriminates. In this case, in favor of those who value the franchise more than a used Kleenex.

Why shouldn’t this be the case? Voting is serious business, as people who are less endowed than are we with “the blessings of Liberty” understand full well. So perhaps a reminder to those who think that it should involve as much thought as selecting a six-pack of beer is in order.

But this bill isn’t the way to do that.

Summit County resident Morgan Liddick pens a Tuesday column. E-mail him at mcliddick@hotmail.com. Also, comment on this column at http://www.summitdaily.com.


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