After Desiline Victor’s appearance as President Obama’s guest at the State of the Union, Fox News hosts Brian Kilmeade, Martha MacCallum, and Bill Hemmer wondered what the “big deal” was that the 102-year-old had to go to the Florida polls twice last November – and then endure a three-hour wait to vote.
“How long was she on line?” Hemmer asked.
“What’s the big deal? She was happy,” MacCallum argued. “She waited on line, she was happy that she voted.”
“They held her up as a victim!” Hemmer alleged. “What was she the victim of? Rashes on the bottom of her feet?”
Fox News opinions on the physical fortitude and emotional satisfaction of the century-old woman aside, we should be troubled by the multitude of polling problems reported in recent elections. Obama used Victor’s ordeal to announce the formation of a national commission to review election procedures. This set off an immediate howl.
The effort could lead to “a one-size-fits-all solution by the federal government,” warned Colorado’s Republican secretary of state Scott Gessler. Others were quick to invoke the 10th amendment, arguing that federal meddling in election procedures violates states’ rights.
Time to look at the Constitution.
Article I, sec 4: The times, places and manner of holding elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each state by the legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by law make or alter such regulations, except as to the places of choosing Senators (emphasis added).
Whether you’re optimistic about the value of such a commission or not (I am not fond of bi-partisan as opposed to non-partisan efforts when it comes to voting), there is no question of its Constitutional legitimacy. We don’t even need the 14th Amendment or the Voting Rights Act to justify federal intervention – the Article I language has been there since 1789.
Speaking of the 14th Amendment, have we so soon forgotten the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Bush v Gore in 2000? Many of the same people who are trumpeting states’ rights today were giddy when the federal court deemed the Florida Supreme Court’s interpretation of that state’s recount procedure contrary to the Equal Protection Clause – and then ruled that Florida did not have enough time to change its methods and meet the federal time limit. Presto! George W. Bush became the 43rd President of the United States.
Where was the roar of scorned federalism then? Is a little consistency too much to ask?
We have to call out folks who defend federal intervention on the fairness of state recount procedures but then decry efforts to guarantee voters equal access to the polls! I mean, c’mon – does it really threaten the Republic if we address things like the number of voting machines available in precincts? Or our mish-mash of voting methods and ballot styles? Or the states’ differing voter ID requirements? Or some states’ clearly ham-handed purging of voter files immediately before an election?
I sure don’t think so – and it looks like the framers would agree.