Tag Archives: elections

Election 2017: The Moore You Know …

Roy Moore
Former Chief Justice Roy Moore [official portrait, Supreme Court of Alabama]
It’s hard to be objective about Roy Moore. Ever since his days as circuit judge of Etowah County, Alabama, he’s been a hero to religious conservatives and the bane of civil libertarians. The former powered his two elections to the office of Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, on his promise to “return God to our public life and restore the moral foundation of our law.” The latter effected his two removals from that office over his insistence that his religious beliefs trump the law (including the US Constitution).

That Moore is one of America’s most controversial political figures shouldn’t distract us from the most obvious and important question concerning the latest controversy: Did he, as alleged in a Washington Post expose,  engage in sexual activities with a 14-year-old girl (and other minors) while he was a thirty-something prosecutor?

Moore’s enemies and the Democratic Party want it to be true. They weren’t able to beat him at the ballot box in either of his two runs for Chief Justice, or in this year’s Republican primary for US Senate. And removing a US Senator is harder than beating him in an election before he becomes one.

Moore’s supporters want it to be false — not just because election results depend on it, but because no one likes to learn he or she was conned by a supposed moral exemplar.

The Republican Party NEEDS the allegations to be false. Unless they collapse in a spectacular manner, the GOP loses. They lose a Senate seat if Moore loses the election. If he wins it, the party’s Senate majority is faced with the choice of seating him and thereby publicly owning his alleged sins, or refusing to seat him and facing the ire of his supporters. If the allegations stand up at all, that thin Republican Senate majority is in danger next November either way.

The most sickening aspect of this whole thing is that some of Moore’s supporters tell us the truth doesn’t matter — that it was a long time ago, that he isn’t accused of forcibly raping anyone, and that hey, the Virgin Mary was young too,  so no biggie. That dog won’t hunt.

I personally loathe Roy Moore, and don’t hold with a “presumption of innocence until the charges are proven beyond a reasonable doubt” standard when it comes to personal reputation. Public opinion is not a criminal court proceeding. My personal biases push me toward believing Moore’s accusers.

On the other hand, the timing is suspect. Why are we only now hearing things that, if true, would have sent him home in disgrace, possibly even to prison, at previous points during his long career?

That it took a personal scandal to slow Moore’s advance toward Capitol Hill is the real embarrassment here. Roy Moore should not be elected to the US Senate because he opposes the values the United States is supposedly founded upon. Hopefully Alabama voters will make the election about that and write in Libertarian candidate Ron Bishop.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

PUBLICATION/CITATION HISTORY

Florida’s Shenanigans Make a Great Case for (Re-)Separation of Ballot and State

Ballot

In mid-February, Florida’s Division of Elections stripped the state’s third largest political party of its official recognition. Tallahassee’s excuse for ending the Independent Party’s ability to put candidates on the ballot and disenfranchising its 260,000-plus registered voters? The party organization’s 2014 financial audit wasn’t conducted by a Certified Public Accountant.

Florida law doesn’t specify any such CPA requirement, and even if it did this dirty trick would exemplify the real purpose of so-called “ballot access laws”: To safeguard the Republican and Democratic Parties’ near-complete control of American elections.

In every election cycle, “third” parties shell out big bucks just to be allowed to present their candidates to voters. According to Nicholas J. Sarwark, chair of the Libertarian Party’s national committee, the party, its state affiliates, and its presidential campaign spent more than $750,000 on ballot access — that is, on jumping through bureaucratic hoops instead of on getting its message out — in 2016.

It shouldn’t be that way. It doesn’t have to be that way. And it wasn’t always that way.

Some histories of the Civil War era mention that Abraham Lincoln was “not even on the ballot” in several southern states. That’s true. None of the other presidential candidates were “on the ballot” either, nor was Lincoln “on the ballot” in the northern states. There was no such thing as “on the ballot.”

American ballot access laws only date back to the 1880s. Before that, voters cast ballots in one of three ways: They received ballots from and printed by their political parties of choice, they wrote out their own ballots by hand, or, if they couldn’t write, they verbally dictated their choices to election officials who wrote down those choices for them in the presence of witnesses.

Once state governments overthrew those methods in favor of “Australian” ballots — standardized ballots printed by the governments themselves — the next step was feigned concern over  “voter confusion” from “too many” candidates, quickly followed by the erection of barriers to “solve” the “problem.”

These days ballot access laws are so many, so varied and so confusing that there’s an entire industry centered around helping parties and candidates interpret and meet the guidelines. There’s even a dedicated publication, Ballot Access News, dedicated to sorting out ballot access laws on a continuing basis.

And, once again, it’s important to keep in mind the real purpose of these laws: To ensure that, with rare exceptions, only Republicans and Democrats are elected to public office. Or, to put it more plainly, to protect those parties from the risks of free and fair elections.

The states and the establishment parties have proven, over and over, that they can’t be trusted with control of ballot access. Time to take that control away.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

PUBLICATION HISTORY

Why Trump is Doubling Down on the Voter Fraud Fraud

Ballot

“In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide,” US president-elect Donald Trump tweeted in late November, “I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.” Kind of a sore winner. And now that he’s no longer just president-elect but actually president, he’s doubling down and says he  “will be asking for a major investigation into VOTER FRAUD …”

That’s dumb. And dangerous.

Dumb because voter fraud is almost non-existent. There are rare cases in which individuals will try to vote illegally. Former Republican congressman Todd Akin of Missouri, for example, who got caught voting at his old polling place after moving, presumably to hide the move from his constituents and opponents. But the key word is “rare.”

Voter fraud is not a strategy used by candidates and campaigns to move the needle on election results. Why? Because it’s just about the most expensive, burdensome, unreliable and risky way imaginable to do that.  A successful voter fraud operation on any scale would require rounding up a whole bunch of people, trusting those people to cast the votes desired instead of just voting however they wanted to vote, and risking any or all of them getting caught (or sprouting a conscience) and blowing the operation. Too many co-conspirators and too many ways for things to go south fast and hard.

If we remove the letter “r” from the end of “voter,” things make more sense. Yes, elections are sometimes rigged. But they’re not rigged the hard way, by impersonating voters.

In some cases they’re rigged at the level of counting votes. Why recruit millions of voters as co-conspirators when a few key election workers (or voting machine programmers) are easier to find, probably more reliable, and far less vulnerable to detection?

In other cases they’re rigged by suppressing the other party’s turnout through fraud (for example, robocalls giving the wrong election date or mailings of fake absentee ballots with the wrong return address) or by law.

Which brings us to the danger of the “investigation” Trump is calling for: Its real purpose isn’t to uncover the truth, but rather to build support for “voter identification” laws.

Some, including me, have described these attempts to impose new and more onerous government identification schemes in the name of “fighting voter fraud” as a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist, but that’s not really accurate. It’s a solution to a problem. Not the problem of ineligible voters. The problem of eligible voters who don’t vote Republican.

Instead of this fake “investigation,” wouldn’t it be cheaper, and more honest, to just put a beige sign outside every polling place? As in: “You must be this pale to vote.”

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

PUBLICATION HISTORY