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DEMOCRACY: Government & Politics | January 3, 2006



By Douglas Drenkow, Editor of "Progressive Thinking"

As Posted in "OpEdNews", "Comments From Left Field", & "GordonTalk"

Call me old fashioned; but I sorta think that if we're going to call ourselves a "democratic republic," then a couple things better be guaranteed under law:

First, that every citizen's vote is counted; and

Second, that every citizen's vote counts just as much as -- no more, no less than -- every other citizen's vote.

Surely every American stands for ensuring an accurate, honest tally of the votes and for the principle of "one person, one vote." I mean, who could either actively or passively oppose these most fundamental values of America -- voting rights, which guarantee every other right we deserve and enjoy? What would you call such a quintessentially un-American individual?

How about "Mister President" or "Associate Justice of the Supreme Court"?

After the debacle in Florida in 2000, the Congress in 2002 passed HAVA (the Help America Vote Act), which devoted nearly $4 billion to assist states in upgrading their often antiquated voting systems. But the federal Election Assistance Commission, established by HAVA, did not materialize until 2004, over a year late; and it did not release voting-machine guidelines until last month -- voluntary guidelines at that.

As confusion, chaos, and evidence of even the newest generation of electronic voting machines being vulnerable to hacking and other irregularities (innocent or otherwise) mounts -- county by county, state by state -- the lack of guidance from federal authorities only adds to the frustration.

But did we really expect the Bush administration to push for meaningful reform of the systems that record our votes? Without fraud -- proven mathematically and demonstrated, even if not yet fully explained, electronically -- they could not have "won" the election in 2004.

Really, though, if Bush's most recent nominee for Supreme Court, Samuel Alito Jr., cements a Right Wing majority on the highest court in the land, it may not really matter much how the votes are counted: Democratic votes could just be legislated away to irrelevancy.

You see, as he stated proudly when applying for a plum position in the Reagan Justice Department, Mr. Alito as a student chose a career in constitutional law "in large part by disagreement with Warren Court decisions, particularly in the areas of criminal procedure, the Establishment Clause, and reapportionment."

In layperson's terms, that means Mr. Alito began his "illustrious" career in the law -- which ultimately led him to be now nominated for the Supreme Court -- because he was adamantly against the rights of defendants, the separation of church and state, and the principle of "one person, one vote" -- the last point being most ominous to me and reportedly to Sen. Joseph Biden Jr. (D-Del.), who will be prominent among those questioning Mr. Alito during the confirmation hearings (Biden feels this will be an even greater hurdle for the nominee to overcome than his well-known opposition to Roe v. Wade).

You see, most of us are too young to remember that the principle of "one person, one vote" was not always respected in America. Indeed, it was not until 1962 that the Supreme Court decided to get involved in the "political thicket" of reapportionment; that year, the Warren court decided the case of Baker v. Carr: The court decided in favor of voters in Tennessee who protested that their votes were diluted because state legislative districts had not be redrawn in decades, apparently despite unequal population growth between districts. And it would not be until 1964, in the case of Reynolds v. Sims, involving legislative districts in Alabama, that the court defined with mathematical precision the gold standard of voting we as Americans enjoy today: Because of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment, "as nearly as is practicable one man's vote" must "be worth as much as another's" -- the principle of "one person, one vote" was finally enshrined in law.

Within months, the "reapportionment revolution" swept the nation. And although "gerrymandering" -- providing districts with equal numbers of voters but lopsided representation of political parties within the districts -- has proved a stubborn problem, no longer at least can a powerful minority of voters disenfranchise a majority of voters in a state by simply lumping them together in a precious few districts, outvoted in the state legislature by a greater number of less populous districts -- a patently undemocratic, yet all-too-common practice in the nation before 1962.

A practice that nominee Alito in effect defended by vehemently opposing the Warren court decision of Baker v. Carr -- which drew him into constitutional law in the first place, about which he boasted in applying to the Reagan Justice Department, and for which an American Enterprise Institute scholar -- echoing sentiment expressed throughout the Far Right -- recently praised nominee Alito.

Yep, call me old fashioned; but I thought that the president, sworn to uphold the Constitution, and a potential justice of the Supreme Court would hold democracy in reverence, not contempt.

Evidently, the president -- who preaches democracy when sending thousands of Americans to their deaths overseas -- doesn't feel obligated to practice or promote democracy here at home.

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