Democracy Without Votes

Democracy Without Votes

Carton by artists Barbee Fish.
So who’s more primitive? Yesterday Kenya announced modern, near-instant voter registration processes even while 14 American States are implementing new laws making voter registration now the hardest in the world.

With a nearly $10 million infusion by world bodies like World Bank, Kenya’s election monitoring board proudly adopted such instant high-tech registration techniques as retina scans, because according to its chairman, Mr Isaack Hassan, “it was prudent we aren’t left behind.”

Behind who? The U.S.? Hardly. Not a single U.S. state uses biometric devices to register voters.

Hassan said “most African countries, for example, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Burkina Faso and Nigeria, had embrace [biometric registration] and as such it is prudent for Kenya not to be left behind.”

So I guess Mississippi, Tennessee and even glorious Wisconsin and 11 other U.S. states are behind Ghana, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Burkina Faso and Nigeria in running democracies!

“This is a national disgrace,” writes Cokie & Steven Roberts in a blogpost yesterday. Their fabulous blog cites a report released recently by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University that argues as many as 5 million mostly Democratic voters in the U.S. have been disenfranchised from the next election by Republican state governments.

Kenya and all the other African countries cited above except Ghana have experienced recent and violent elections. And all of them are taking radical measures to fix this, and the first and most important fix is to facilitate an easy, quick way for everyone to vote.

The mantra of voter fraud is one of the most primitive, fraudulent claims ever assumed by existing American legislators, and it reflects not some concern about freedom, but concern about losing power.

Fortunately, the Obama administration is forcefully challenging many of these laws in court. But god help us if they fail.

What the hell are we doing? Why are we digging ourselves back into a prehistoric political hole? If you believe in democracy, and I do and most of Africa does, resultant laws will craft it differently and fashion a kaleidoscope of power as different as the Iowa caucuses counts are from New Hampshire electronic tallies.

But don’t tread on me. Let me vote! Facilitate my involvement, don’t impede it.

My grandfather was proud of being one of the few true Republicans in Chicago in the 1930s and 1940s, and he loved telling us his grandchildren why he stopped voting before the war. The last time he tried the election judge looked him right in the eye and said, “Mr. Andersen, sir, you’re dead.”

That was eighty years ago. I thought things had changed.

They have, in Africa.