It is rare in US politics that the real reasons for policy are admitted openly, and the recent statement by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is one of those occasions. He has accused the Democrats of a “power grab” by putting forward a bill that would ensure that Election Day in America would be a public holiday. God forbid the populace has the chance to actually vote.
In Australia, our elections are always scheduled for the weekend as that is when the majority of people are available, and those who aren’t have the option to submit their votes early on a day that works for them. In America, Election Day is November 6, which each year falls on a different day, and for years there have been calls for the day to become a holiday to allow more people to attend. It has been a well-known tactic that certain politicians and policies only get through due to the lack of numbers. Some methods include:
- Gerrymandering, drawing up districts in a way that favours one party over another (something that has been gaining traction and criticism here in Australia at times too)
- Refusing the vote to prisoners and people with prior felonies, which applies to everyone but disproportionately affects black voters (and, under Howard, it was legislated that prisoners in Australia serving more than 3 years were not allowed to vote)
- Election Day not being a public holiday and/or having no (or dodgy) early voting systems, which shuts out workers who can’t afford time off
I’m sure there are other ways the votes are skewed, just like how women and black people were not allowed to vote until they fought for it. And just like those two fights for rights, time will bring changes that open it up for more people.
Because what McConnell said is absolutely correct – making Election Day and public holiday would be a power grab for the Democrats. It is no secret that the more people who vote, and (more importantly) the more people who are properly informed of political issues, the less the vote goes towards parties like the Republicans, or the LNP here in Australia. In all honesty, the Democrats are only slightly better and the US system needs a major overhaul, but expanding the peoples’ rights and pushing for the Democrats in 2020 is at least a better proposal than another four years of Republican regime.
Being Australian, the laws governing who and who can’t vote in America has no real value because corruption, while still rampant, is nowhere near as established here. But how the American system functions does prove as a warning to us that such systems could be implemented here. As our current government leans closer and closer to the American style of privatisation and monopolies, the voting population has shouted their disapproval. Scare tactics and blatant falsehoods are used to rile up votes for the Coalition, and our rights as workers and private citizens have been slowly eroded. Let’s hope we are not so complacent as to allow the government to strip the right to vote away from any group (and that the right is given back to prisoners).
Conservative parties only win through deceit, because the majority usually opposes their ideas and actions. It will be interesting to watch the currently crumbling Coalition try and hold together for the election in May
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