If a person possesses the quality of being honest with strong moral principles or “moral uprightness” they are regarded as having integrity. In American politics, particularly Republican politics, integrity is not only in short supply, it is by all estimations non-existent. Between the preponderance of outright lies and deliberate deception, the hallmark of Republican politics, it is little wonder America’s electoral process lacks integrity; particularly in states controlled by Republicans. In fact, despite being a so-called free democratic society with specific constitutional amendments guaranteeing all citizens the right to vote, Democrats have officially endorsed yet another constitutional amendment establishing the right to vote.
Now, it appears there may be a good reason for yet another voting rights amendment according to a new report placing America’s “electoral integrity” on par with Colombia and Bulgaria at 45th among the world’s democracies. Those nations are arguably not shining examples of democratic Utopias, so America’s being in their company is not a very encouraging statistic to anyone except Koch-Republicans. It is reasonable that their goal has been eliminating anything resembling “electoral integrity” for over a decade and doubtless they celebrated America’s pathetic ranking.
According to a report last year from the BradBlog, researchers at Harvard and the University of Sydney reported that after assessing the 2012 General Election, America ranked number 26; one step higher than Mexico and one below Micronesia. So in the course of one election America’s electoral integrity declined and should surprise very few Americans. It is another world ranking embarrassment for the nation that conservatives claim is exceptional, and a telling narrative about the pathetic state of this once storied example of democracy compared to the rest of the world. It is likely that there are not many Americans who would even use the term “electoral integrity” in the same sentence with American democracy.
The new report is from the Electoral Integrity Project (EIP) that assessed the latest midterm elections with “additional countries” that were not included in the previous report. The report was best summarized by the statement: “Contests in the United States scored the worst performance among any long-established democracy. (bold original) Hence the 2012 Presidential election was ranked 42nd worldwide with additional countries’ statistics, while the 2014 mid-term Congressional races was ranked 45th. One reason America ranks so low according to experts who expressed their growing concern over US electoral laws and processes of voter registration, both areas of heated partisan debates.” It is true there are partisan debates due to Republicans actively disenfranchising and obstructing the voting rights of students, the poor, and people of color in the former Confederacy, but the trend is also growing in other GOP-controlled states. The apparent goal is to “bestow the privilege of voting solely on white Republican voters,” and restricting ballot box access to Democratic voters as stated by several Confederate-state Republicans.
Since the idea of electoral integrity is nearly non-existent in Americans’ consciousness, the project defined it as “meeting international standards and global norms governing the ‘appropriate’ conduct of elections.” There were about 1,500 domestic and international election experts’ involved in the study whose views were represented by forty consultants who concluded that “Elections in United States stand out as relatively poorly compared with other established democracies, and are deserving further scrutiny.” The latest report echoed the same problems from last year’s study that rated the 2012 Presidential election poorly reiterating that “The November 2014 Congressional elections got poor grades because experts were concerned about the electoral laws, voter registration, the process of drawing district boundaries, as well as regulation of campaign finance.” What they likely meant was the glaring lack of regulation of campaign finance.
The EIP particularly noted major concerns Democrats have cited such as laws restricting voter registration efforts in Southern states and new laws denying access to the polls that the study found were “increasingly polarized and litigious ever since the 2000 ‘Florida’ debacle generating growing controversy in state-houses and the courts.” Apparently the report is referring to the Koch-Court striking down the Voting Rights Act that opened the floodgates for Confederate states’ to devise and impose new Jim Crow laws to disenfranchise the poor and people of color. In fact the study did note that “America also suffers from exceptionally partisan and decentralized arrangements for electoral administration and suggested the role of money in American politics deserves more detailed scrutiny.”
The one area the study could not assess for integrity is the “computerized voting systems,” or touch-screen voting machines, that are “100% impossible to verify for accuracy after polls have closed.” Hand marked paper ballots can be checked for veracity after the fact, but they are either counted by optical scans and are only used in about 60% of the nation. The study did give a cursory look at things such as ballot box security, results announced ‘without delay, if counts are conducted fairly, or if election monitors are restricted from having polling place access Otherwise, it was nearly impossible to accurately rank how fair the ballot counting process really is, and how close to the bottom American elections really are.
The truly sad commentary about this latest American humiliation is that it is certain to get worse, and with the Koch brothers pledging nearly a billion dollars to buy the government in 2016, it will get much, much worse. Part and parcel of the Koch’s influence is from their heavily-funded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and Americans for Prosperity influence on Republican states’ legislation to restrict voting rights in and outside the former Confederacy. Republicans and ALEC claim the need for restricting voter access is an overwhelming problem of rampant voter fraud. However, It is worth reiterating that according to a comprehensive study, the actual number of voter fraud incidents between 2000 and 2014 was 31 out of more than 1 billion votes cast in every general, primary, special, and municipal election in the United States during that 14 year period according to the Federal Election Commission.
Many Americans are well-aware that this country’s so-called representative democracy is a joke, and it is obvious that the low voter turnout is in part due to the increasing obstruction plaguing many prospective voters. America was purported, at one time, to be the world’s shining example of how democracy is supposed to work, but between the Koch Supreme Court giving their blessing to unlimited campaign financing and giving former Confederate states free rein to impose harsh voter restriction laws, it is no wonder America is ranked 45th in electoral integrity among the world’s democracies and frankly, it is amazing that it is not ranked at the bottom of the list; something the Koch Republicans will certainly rectify by the next election.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.