Sunday, October 20, 2013

Democracy the Elusive and Illusive: Part One – In Favor of Renewing the VRA, but…

…that leaves us still with very far to go in restoring functional democracy.
With regard to Paul Louis Metzger and Tom Krattenmaker and their joint post “The Voting Rights Act and Post-Racialized American: Can We Vote on That?” (, I felt that two additional perspectives may be helpful. Here’s the first of those:
Regarding the necessity of documentation/verification of our participation in a mutual society:
Among our decisions to participate together in democracy, several require significant inconvenience, among the least of which are standards for documenting our participation in a society of mutual responsibility. That some want to increase these standards so as to require prohibitively expensive documentation should be addressed economically at the county level (at least in our communities) where agencies that are self-funded through fees and fines continue to wield a virtual stranglehold over most areas of life.
In contrast to this mutual participation, though, some prefer to remain unnumbered and unencumbered by “the system.” Working among some who seek to live “off the grid,” the few Anglos I know who choose not to be documented (ironically including both peace-mongering hippies and gun-toting constitutionalists) have no desire to participate in the political process. Their version of society includes an aversion to mutuality of responsibility. They view themselves as being outside and beyond the petty concerns of those who provide the infrastructure of a broader community than they see necessary. Others who choose not to be documented are likewise disinterested in the political process, except where it (hypocritically) seeks to impose penalties upon them for providing the essential services for which businesses and individuals will not employ legal (i.e., expensively minimum-waged) residents. These view themselves as outside and beneath the petty concerns of this or that candidate or ballot issue.
But for those of us who still choose to participate in a mutually responsible society, there should be clear and accessible (i.e., free) means of authenticating our right to participate. But even my possession of a valid driver’s license, current U.S. passport, and documentation of my physical address recently proved to be insufficient to allowing my participation in an important recent election.
I was recently disallowed my “right to vote” on a local issue that directly affects my personal financial situation. I must confess that what prevented me from receiving a ballot was not the lack of a state- or federally-issued ID, but having failed to fill out a change-of-address from our previous residence outside the immediate area perceived to be affected by the ballot issue. It would have cost me only the price of a first-class stamp in order to do so, but it would also have required me to be better informed of the boundary restrictions on this particular measure.
My point is that it is often an information deficit, rather than an economic one, that prevents greater participation, even where the issues are clearly motivating us to make mutual decisions through the ballot box. And that leads to my second contribution to the discussion, which will appear tomorrow.

1 comment:

Pastor Greg said...

Looking forward to part 2!

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