Elizabeth Warren Has A Plan For ... Oh, Just Fixing Democracy!
Photo by Dominic Gwinn

With the first Democratic debate coming up tonight (join us here for livebloog, dummies!), Elizabeth Warren is out with yet another policy proposal, this time to guarantee that all Americans have the easiest possible access to voting in federal elections. A good bit of it overlaps with the House Democrats' proposal, earlier this year, to guarantee voting rights. But Warren goes even beyond that ambitious plan a bit, because she is a badass who wants elections to be fair and free from computer hacking -- and from less exotic forms of fuckery. Needless to say, her insistence that all Americans should be able to vote will be decried as some kind of power grab, because that's what it is: a plan to grab power away from the Republicans who have engineered electoral advantages well beyond their actual support among Americans. You can see the bumper stickers now: FAIRNESS ISN'T FAIR.

Warren outlines her "Protect Our Democracy" plan in a post on Medium, emphasizing that with about 8,000 different election jurisdictions, there's a lot of room to standardize and improve how federal elections work, from ending long lines at polling places to protecting election computers from being hacked. Of course, fair elections are also imperiled by "racist and partisan officials [who] often deliberately seek to stop citizens from exercising the right to vote." So how about we conduct national elections with a genuinely national set of rules?

Warren says the best guarantee of the right to vote would be a constitutional amendment guaranteeing all citizens the right to vote. But while we work toward that, the US Constitution offers a solution to clean up a lot of the mess.

Congress can regulate the "Times, Places, and Manner," of federal elections. This power is so broad that even Justice Scaliabelieved this provision gives Congress "authority to provide a complete code for congressional elections." Congress also has the power to enforce the 14th and 15th Amendments to prevent voting discrimination, and the power of the purse to grant money to the states to meet federal standards. It's time to draw on these constitutional powers to strengthen our democracy.

Maybe Congress has never done that. But it certainly can, and it certainly should.

How About We All Play By The Same Rules?

To ensure free and fair federal elections, Warren wants to see Congress enact a uniform set of rules for all congressional and presidential elections. This part is pretty much right out of House Bill 1:

Eligibility to Vote:

  • Automatic voter registration for any qualified citizen once they turn 18, with the ability to opt out.
  • Same-day registration for federal elections, in case people find themselves somehow not on the voter rolls.
  • No purges of federally registered voters. State and local voting agencies would have to prove there's a valid reason to remove people from the federal voting roles, like "death, change of address, or loss of eligibility to vote."
  • Re-enfranchisement of all felons who have completed their sentences.

Make voting easy:

  • Election day would be a national holiday.
  • All federal elections would include 15 days of early voting.
  • Voters in federal elections would have the option to vote with a sworn statement of identity instead of an ID.
  • Warren would also call on Congress to pass the Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Native American Voting Rights Act "to shut down a host of festering discriminatory practices." [She's looking at YOU, North Dakota -- Dok]
No Gerrymandering of Congressional Districts
This one could be huge: States would have to draw congressional districts using nonpartisan redistricting commissions -- a measure several states have already adopted. Talk about a radical idea! Warren says, "Both parties should compete on a level playing field; not in a rigged game designed to suppress the will of the people." UNFAIR POWER GRAB!!!

How About We All Get Equal Resources For Elections, Too?

On top of that, Warren would essentially nationalize the machinery of national elections. You want fair elections everywhere? Great: Let's have the federal government put its resources to work instead of hoping the Podunk County Board of Elections decides to fund more than one polling place. Might be nice to see an end to shitty elections like Georgia's shameful 2018 fuckery, where black communities had too few voting machines and far longer waits to vote.

Warren would create a nonpartisan, independent "Secure Democracy Administration" to manage cybersecurity for federal elections and make sure local elections officials have all the help they need to hold fair elections. That's just for starters, though. She wants a federal-state partnership that would ensure all federal elections run by the same rules -- and to encourage state and local elections run along similar lines.

The Constitution only allows Congress to manage federal elections, but there'd be serious incentives to have other jurisdictions use the same rules for state and local elections:

Here's how it will work: the federal government will pay the entirety of a state's election administration costs, as long as the state meets federal standards in its state and local elections and works to make voting more convenient. States will create state implementation plans, describing how they will adhere to federal law and increase access to voting (e.g. location of polling places). The Secure Democracy Administration will review state implementation plans for compliance with federal law, election security protocols, potentially racially discriminatory impacts, and efforts to make voting more convenient. States that achieve high percentage voter turnout, including across racial, gender, and age groups, will be awarded additional bonus payments.

If states decide to go their own way, they'd lose out on a lot of nice federal elections money. It's basically the same sort of gentle federal extortion that brought us a national 21-year-old drinking age: States were free not to adopt it, but they'd lose federal highway funds. Under Warren's plan, if states insist on having different rules for voter registration or photo ID for nonfederal elections, fine. But then they wouldn't

receive new funding for administering state elections beyond election security measures, and they will still have to administer federal elections in accordance with federal law — including preclearance for any changes that might have a discriminatory impact under the Voting Rights Advancement Act.

On top of that, if state or local elections officials violate the rules for federal elections, they'd face consequences, by golly:

[My] plan will give the Secure Democracy Administration the authority to seek a court order to step in and guarantee that every voter has access to the polls unless or until the state shows its intent to fully comply with federal law. The right to vote is a fundamental right, and we will not let racist and corrupt politicians undermine it or our democracy. [emphasis in original]

That's the sort of federal government overreach we could really get behind. And when you see southern states and wingnuts who hate fair elections calling it tyranny, you'll know it's a really good idea. Especially since the comments on the original post included this mandatory derp:

What a freekin' whack job, Fauxcahontas!

For starters, America is a Constitutional Republic, not a "democracy". America is not led by mob rule — as much as you'd like it to be.

Second, you rant on about election "security", while at the same time wanting any and every ILLEGAL ALIEN given the right to vote [...]

As much as you will try and steal the election in 2020, President Trump will be elected to a second term!

So there's pretty much the outline of the GOP rebuttal. We especially like the bit about illegal aliens voting, which isn't in the actual plan, but is definitely in the version you see when reading with Fox News goggles.


[Team Warren on Medium]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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