Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Editorials: Where I rant to the wall about politics. And sometimes the wall rants back.

Everyone Votes!

Jerry Stratton, March 22, 1998

Last year we put tens of thousands of people into jail because they chose to ingest the wrong food; we may soon be putting hundreds of thousands in jail for tobacco, soon enough. This isn’t odd for the United States: while we may be better than most dictatorships, we still have a history of enacting really bad laws and putting the wrong people into prison. From the anti-sedition laws in our early years on through to the “Japanese-American” round-ups during World War II, some of these have resulted in wrongful imprisonment, and some in deaths. If you’re a grass-roots activist, I’m sure you can think of your own pet “stupid law”. Politicians sometimes appear to make laws based on what they think they can get away with rather than what is in the best interests of the people of the country. As often as not, bad laws don’t even get changed. They hang around and continue to put otherwise innocent people in jail, ruining their lives and stripping them of rights. Politicians never like to say they were wrong, and they almost never do.

So how to make the criminal justice system self-correcting, so that bad laws get changed? It would be nice if we could make it illegal to enact bad laws, but that’s likely to cause far more trouble than it fixes because, of course, it’ll be the politicians who decide what is and is not a bad law!

No matter what we do, we still end up electing people to politics who want political power. What else are we going to do, force someone into politics who doesn’t want the job? That sounds like a bad law right there. So, if we are going to continue to elect people who want power, we need to strip some of their ability to cause trouble. Currently, politicians are automatically right, because once they make something illegal, the voters who are most likely to vote against them end up in jail, unable to vote. The answer is, acknowledge everyone’s right to vote. From the most heinous criminals to the craziest bastards in the depths of Bedlam. Don’t let anyone’s right to vote be taken away and there is a strong incentive to keep from passing bad laws on things that shouldn’t be crimes.

Yes, I can hear the screams already. “Rapists? Murderers? Can you imagine politicians catering to the rapist vote and running on a pro-rape platform?” Well, can you? Bullshit. There is no community anywhere in the United States where a politician can get elected on a pro-rape platform. It just won’t happen, because there is no community where rapists make up a significant number of the population, and there is no community where voters approve of rape. The law-abiding will vote en masse against our hypothetical pro-rape politician, and even if the criminal 1% vote for him, he’s still out. You do not win elections on 1% of the vote.

There will never be a close race when one of the candidates is running pro-crime. We haven’t yet reached the point where people in prison outnumber people out of prison—and if you think we might, I’d call that a clear indication that we desperately need this reform. No, the law-abiding sane far outnumber criminals and they directly oppose the aims of real criminals. Any politician running on a pro-crime platform will lose.

But if the “crime” in question is politician-generated, it’s a different story. Politicians might well be able to start putting tobacco smokers, for example, in jail, but unless keeping them there is important to the average voter, these new “criminals” become dedicated issue-driven swing voters.

Think about it. No matter how progressive you were before you’re in jail, no matter how much you supported putting your neighbor in jail for doing something you don’t like, once you’re the one in jail you will vote for whoever will get you out. It won’t matter how “conservative” or “liberal” they are. And if the average voter doesn’t care about your “crime”, politicians in close races will be able to get elected on your vote.

Because while sometimes, as with alcohol prohibition, bad laws get changed, most of the time they don’t. Alcohol prohibition was a fluke: the progressives went too far, too fast, and lost. Most of the time, as soon as politicians make something illegal, that’s the end of the line. It may have been a fight to get there, but once the tobacco smokers, pot smokers, and newspaper editors are in jail, they can’t vote the politicians out. Their voice no longer matters. So things are more likely to get worse than to get better because the “middle ground” has moved that one step further in the favor of bad laws.

It isn’t just crime. In at least some states, if you are adjudged insane, you cannot vote. At least one comedian tried to claim that everyone who voted for Bob Dornan in the Dornan/Sanchez election in California was insane. He actually filed a report with the registrar. Sure, it was a joke: but there is no joke so crazy that at least one politician will not eventually take it seriously. We already know of other countries where mental health facilities have been used to quell political dissent. We can make sure it never happens here by making sure that labeling someone “insane” is not an easy way to remove their right to vote.

If we never remove anyone’s right to vote, this type of abuse of power is no longer possible. Politicians won’t be able to take away the vote from entire classes of people.

Don’t expect an “Everyone Votes” law or constitutional amendment to be passed soon. If ain’t gonna happen. It would mean that politicians would have to face up directly to the consequences of their actions. Face down the father of two, in jail because he smoked a joint on Friday night. Face down the comic book writer on parole because he drew dirty pictures. “Everyone Votes” would be a one-way ticket to accountability, and if anything scares politicians, this is it.

Who gets to vote is entirely a state matter, however. And some states, such as California, still “allow” the voters to actually make laws (although some politicians in those states want to remove that right because it “confuses” the voters).

Voter Protection Act

  1. No person, having once been a citizen of this state, shall have their right to vote abridged or infringed for any reason, unless they voluntarily, specifically, and successfully register to vote in another state.
  2. Any person imprisoned, detained, or otherwise held involuntarily, shall have as their place of residence for purposes of voting the first of
    1. their last known place of residence, if known
    2. their place of arrest
  3. If absentee ballots are not provided in a timely and private manner, persons held as in (II) must be provided leave and transportation to the polling area for their place of residence, and must be afforded standard privacy in the polling booth.

Step by step, this:

  1. Ensures that everyone has the right to vote, thus keeping politicians accountable for bad laws,
  2. Sets the place of residence so that (a) criminals don’t over-burden the locale where their prison is, and (b) undesirables can’t be shunted off to a fake community.
  3. Ensures that absentee ballots are available from the community of residence, as few communities are likely to want their criminals transported back home twice every two years.

It is for the most part a liberal dream and a right wing nightmare, but liberals get their sacred cows skewered as well. Besides meaning that women in jail for illegal abortions, hippies in jail for smoking pot, and protestors in jail for burning the flag, all get to vote away the right-wingers who put them there, gun owners in jail for paperwork violations will also retain their right to vote away the left-wing nuts who passed those bad laws.

It’s an equal opportunity politician destroyer.

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