Friday, February 06, 2009
SC General Assembly looking at changing how SC votes
One of the things being overlooked in this years South Carolina General Assembly session are some of the changes in South Carolina voting laws being proposed. Debate on several ideas is going on in the South Carolina House.
There are several proposals out there, some make sense, others do not.
The first is the idea of fusion vote counts. If a candidate gets the nomination of, for example, the Constitution Party and the Republican Party, then those votes are combined in determining an election winner. It makes some common sense in that it would thwart the will of the people for a candidate to receive more votes, via his or her tallies as a candidate for two parties, than the party nominee of one party who got more one party votes, but not the overall combined plurality. However, the last time in South Carolina such a vote was even close to mattering was in 1952 when General Eisenhower ran both as a Republican and Independent in South Carolina for President. He still lost the plurality to Adlai Stevenson.
The second idea being tossed around is allowing early voting. It is a popular trend around the nation, and neighboring North Carolina even set up early voting stations in shopping malls. There is the clichéd appeal of how early voting makes it easier for people to vote and participate. Perhaps it does. However, there is something uneasy about government having to basically beg people to participate in shaping their own lives. The current absentee voting laws in South Carolina are pretty liberal. If someone sincerely can not make it to the polls on Election Day, there is a way for them to cast their ballots. People fought, killed and died for us to be able to shape our lives through voting. Frankly, it is pretty selfish of people to demand that voting be at their convenience. If someone does not care enough to take the time go vote or to contact their local election officials and get an absentee ballot, perhaps that says how spoiled American are. There are people around the world who wait in long lines proudly to caste their votes. Early voting is just an admission of the spoiled nature of American democracy. It also creates headaches in making things run legally.
The third idea being debated in the legislature is meant to eliminate one of the headaches with elections: proving a voter is a valid voter through photo identification. I gained some experience with that problem working as my local party’s attorney for the last general election. During that work, I got to chat with different folks in both parties about how concerned they were that someone shows up to vote, presents a valid voter ID card, but looks twenty years younger or older or in some other way different than what is on the card. Those ballots can be challenged, but often such challenges get nowhere. Photo identification would eliminate those questions and ensure the integrity of the ballot. It is a good idea.
The fourth idea being thrown around is closed primaries. Under that plan, people would have to register by party and could only vote in the primaries in the party in which they registered. To activists in both major parties, that seems like a great idea to keep their parties pure. The problem is found in counties such as mine and such as Chesterfield for example. In my home county of Anderson, Solicitor, Sheriff, County Council, etc, were all determined in the Republican Primary. Likewise, in Chesterfield such local offices were decided in the Democratic Primary. Thus, a Democrat in Anderson would have no say in his local government officials and a Republican in Chesterfield would have no say in his local government officials. Such a closed primary system might work in other states, but the nature of South Carolina politics is so different from county to county. As such the current open primary is the best system for our state in that it allows the Democrat in Anderson to choose to either vote in the statewide primary for the Democrats he supports, or to vote to decide the local officials who govern him closest. The same is true for the Republican in Chesterfield. Knowing the diverse political makeup of our state, it is hard to understand how either party, if they thought rationally, would want to deny people the freedom to choose in which primary to vote in on Election Day.
Sadly, what is missing from all the election law changes are real reforms on financial disclosure. With both parties having political groups that do not have to disclose how much money that they get from whomever, it is still hard to tell whose influence the people are voting under.