Thursday, September 20, 2012

Representation and the Importance of Voting

By Gregory Allen


Elections in the United States, such as the presidential election in November, are designed to appoint representatives that will reflect the opinion held by those who voted; essentially legislating and acting on behalf of the majority or prevailing perspective.

However, when candidates win a popular election (or via Electoral College) having been selected by the minority perspective, the design of fair representation is undermined. Unfortunately, the loudest voice that might appear in voting ballots this November may not represent the majority or be seeking steps toward tolerance when they cast their vote.

Stephen Colbert shared a survey on his Comedy Central television show The Colbert Report that identified the growing progression of tolerant and secular beliefs among young voters. The survey found that 63% of millennials (persons born 1981 or later), also known as Generation Y, favored same-sex marriage.


The survey also showed declining support directly corresponding to an increase in age.This survey, conducted by Pew Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life, Feb 7, 2012, was not the only one Colbert shared with his audience.

Colbert also cited Dan Merica’s CNN article “Pew survey: Doubt of God growing quickly among millennials” which, based on a Pew Research Center survey, explained of millenials, “Thirty-one percent disagreed with the statement ‘I never doubt the existence of God.’”

Gallup has also published poll results regarding changing American beliefs. In 2011, a record 53% of Americans favored legalizing gay marriage. In May 2012, Gallup reported that 50% of Americans still supported recognizing same-sex marriage. Despite a drop, the majority opinion is still identified as only 48% opposed gay marriage.

These views may not be reflected in the election results in November, as several conservative states are seeking to implement voter registration laws to censor and disenfranchise opposition. According to Pam Fessler in her NPR piece “The Politics Behind New Voter ID Laws”, Democrats claim in the effects of these laws, “students, the poor and disabled — those most likely to vote Democratic — will be hurt the most.”

Not surprising considering growing secular beliefs among young voters, religious states like Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina – four of the top ten most religious states according to Gallup – are also pursuing voter ID laws.

According to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law; a record ten states are seeking these restrictions, and ID laws will force more than ten million potential voters – 500,000 who do not own transportation – to travel more than ten miles to register

Much higher than the data reported by Gallup, support for gay marriage among African American voters is now 59% (poll produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates). As the poor will face the most adversity from voter registration laws, it is relevant to provide the unemployment rate and poverty discrepancies in America.

Information given by the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows African Americans face an unemployment rate of 14.4%, compared to white Americans 7.4%. And from the U.S. Census Bureau, 27% of African Americans live below the poverty line, while only 9.9% of white Americans do.

Proponents insist identification is free to obtain; however, offices that provide identification might only be open as little as one day a month as Rachel Rose Hartman for Yahoo News explains, also citing voters face challenges when she quoted Attorney General Eric Holder who said voters will “have to pay for the underlying documentation necessary to obtain the photo identification.”

Motivation behind these laws is not to prevent rare cases of voter fraud or enforce questionable Republican claims of preserving honest elections, but to dissuade voters who may vote in larger quantity against one group’s outnumbered beliefs.

Registering to vote is still easy, although this may not be a complete solution to divisive voter registration tactics. The United States Election Assistance Commission provides for download a National Mail Voter Registration form on their website, available to all U.S. citizens. This also includes state specific voting policies.

Massachusetts residents may find registration information and forms via http://www.sec.state.ma.us/ele/eleifv/howreg.htm. The deadline for Massachusetts residents to vote in the November 2, 2012 State Election is Wednesday, October 17, 2012.

Voting ensures a fair perspective, one mirroring majority opinion – whether liberal or conservative – is represented in those passing legislation that will affect all citizens. Leadership should be decided by the majority, by the voices of those being led, not by the loudest or most aggressive opinion.

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