Get-out-the-vote: the non-nonpartisanship of it all

September 24, 2012 | By Jim Stovall | Filed in: news, Voting.


In politics, no act — no matter how altruistic it may be intended — is without a perceived partisan effect.

So it is with the current Get-Out-the-Vote efforts.

As it is with the efforts to prevent voter fraud.

The underlying tone of one is that expanding the electorate will help President Barack Obama get re-elected. The underlying tone of the other is that putting more legal controls on who votes and when will aid the Republicans and Mitt Romney.

The main reason the Fifteenth Amendment (1870) was ratified did not lie in the fact that black males, recently freed from slavery, should have the right to vote (they certainly should) but that the Radical Republicans of the day knew that if they could vote, they would be reliably Republican.

The Nineteenth Amendment (1920) giving women the right to vote took much longer, in part because politicians couldn’t figure the partisanship angle: what side would women take once they could vote? Had that been clear, women likely would have gained the right to vote much sooner.

Exercising the right to vote and maintaining the integrity of the voting system are both good things — but they’re both highly political and partisan activities.


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