With election season upon us, we’re all inundated sights of people preparing to “caress the polls” come November 6th. What should we do? Which way should we vote, or should we even vote at all? In order to even think about making a decision about voting, we need to understand the laws and history concerning voting in the United States. On this week’s episode of The Axiom Amnesia Theory, Heit & Cheri take you on a journey to help you understand the voting process–the laws that feed into it, as well as the consequences. This is a show that we encourage everyone to listen to.
Topics discussed include democracy versus constitutional republic, who wrote the Constitution and their original intent, branches of the U.S. government, parts of the Constitution and amendments that deal with voting laws and rights, how the president, vice president, and Congress are elected, how the Electoral College works, eligible voters, voting in state and local elections versus federal elections, Blacks and the right to vote, women’s suffrage, Voting Rights Act, felon disenfranchisement, children not having the right to vote, voter turnout over time, political parties, U.S. territories not having the right to vote, 2000 presidential election, and does your vote count?
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- Discussion about Big Tex burning down.
- Discussion about the last mainstream presidential debate. The candidates agreed on the most important things. Use of drones, defending Israel, Iranian sanctions, and the list goes on. There’s really no difference.
- Discussion about the horses and bayonets comment that Obama made.
- The reason we cover the debates is so that we can hear what the candidates say and point out the hypocrisy.
- During the debate the candidates contradicted themselves multiple times.
- This show on voting laws, rights and history has been a year in the making.
- On Episode 061: Debating Government, we talked about the different forms of government.
- Difference between Democracy and constitutional republic – In a democracy the majority rules in determining the outcome. The chief characteristic and distinguishing feature of a Democracy is: Rule by Omnipotent Majority. In a Democracy, The Individual, and any group of individuals composing any Minority, have no protection against the unlimited power of The Majority. It is a case of Majority-over-Man.
- A Republic, on the other hand, has a very different purpose and an entirely different form, or system, of government. Its purpose is to control The Majority strictly, as well as all others among the people, primarily to protect The Individual’s God-given, unalienable rights and therefore for the protection of the rights of The Minority, of all minorities, and the liberties of people in general.
- Discussion about the U.S. Constitution. It was written and ratified by people–landowning white males–who were non-elected representatives. These men basically took it upon themselves from the beginning to write the Constitution and the framework to be the government. They are called “founding fathers.” This was not a democratic process in which these self-proclaimed rulers started.
- The Articles of Confederation (1777-1781) served as the written document that established the functions of the national government of the United States after it declared independence from Great Britain. It established a weak central government that mostly, but not entirely, prevented the individual states from conducting their own foreign diplomacy.
- Discussion about the limited role of the federal government and the states basically having the power to do as they wished with few limitations.
- Electoral College – an unelected group deciding who gets elected as president and vice president. The purpose is to prevent “mob rule.” Article 2 section 1 – This is the body of people who vote for the president and the VP based on the popular vote of the state. The number of electors is determined by the number of senators plus the number of representatives in Congress for that state – population based.
- Discussion about branches of government.
- The executive branch consists of the president, vice president, cabinet, all of the big departments of the government (DOJ, State Department, CIA, etc.). The executive branch is in charge of executing the policies of the federal government itself.
- The legislative branch consists of the Congress–the House of Representatives and Senate–and is responsible for passing laws up to the president for approval.
- The judicial branch consists of Supreme Court and the Federal Court System. They are involved in determining the constitutionality of the laws.
- The judicial system comes up a lot in the news, because they are involved as the final interpreter of the laws and their constitutionality–for instance, Obamacare.
- The legislature and president may pass and sign a law, but it doesn’t mean that the law is constitutional. The judicial system enters the picture when the laws are challenged. The executive branch is responsible for defending the bills that it signs. The executive branch, through the DOJ, can challenge laws as well.
- Federal judges are appointed by the executive branch. The people who wind up on the Supreme Court and other federal courts have been sanctioned by the executive and legislative branches.
- Discussion about the unwritten expectation that judges will follow their party lines with decisions and rulings.
- Discussion about the Constitution as it specifically relates to voting.
- Article One, Section 2: No Person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the Age of twenty five Years, and been seven Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen.
- There are different types of citizens: natural born and naturalized (went through legal process to become a citizen).
- Article One, Section 3: The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, chosen by the Legislature thereof for six years. (Note: Originally, senators were selected by the state legislatures, not by popular elections. By the early years of the 20th century, the legislatures of as many as 29 states had provided for popular election of senators by referendums. Popular election to the Senate was standardized nationally in 1913 by the ratification of the 17th Amendment.)
- Article One, Section 3:No Person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty Years, and been nine Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State for which he shall be chosen.
The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote, unless they be equally divided.
- Article One, Section 4: The Congress shall assemble at least once in every Year.
- Discussion that members of Congress are only required to meet once per year. Mention of how people complain about “do nothing” Congresses, and wanting to see more progress and work done.
- How much do Congress members make?
The Average Joe of Congress (there are 529 of them) gets paid $174,000 per year. But not everyone is average; the Speaker of the House gets $223,500 a year, while the majority and minority leaders of both the Senate and the House, along with the President Pro Tempore, get paid $193,400 per year. Not bad, huh?
Source: No Labels
- Article Two, Section One: The executive power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. He shall hold his office during the term of four years, and, together with the Vice President, chosen for the same term, be elected, as follows:
Each state shall appoint, in such manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a number of electors, equal to the whole number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or person holding an office of trust or profit under the United States, shall be appointed an elector.
Note: A portion of Article II, section 1 of the Constitution was superseded by the 12th Amendment:
The Electors shall meet in their respective states and vote by ballot for President and Vice-President, one of whom, at least, shall not be an inhabitant of the same state with themselves; they shall name in their ballots the person voted for as President, and in distinct ballots the person voted for as Vice-President, and they shall make distinct lists of all persons voted for as President, and of all persons voted for as Vice-President, and of the number of votes for each, which lists they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the seat of the government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate; — the President of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates and the votes shall then be counted; — The person having the greatest number of votes for President, shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed; and if no person have such majority, then from the persons having the highest numbers not exceeding three on the list of those voted for as President, the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by states, the representation from each state having one vote; a quorum for this purpose shall consist of a member or members from two-thirds of the states, and a majority of all the states shall be necessary to a choice. [And if the House of Representatives shall not choose a President whenever the right of choice shall devolve upon them, before the fourth day of March next following, then the Vice-President shall act as President, as in case of the death or other constitutional disability of the President. –]* The person having the greatest number of votes as Vice-President, shall be the Vice-President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed, and if no person have a majority, then from the two highest numbers on the list, the Senate shall choose the Vice-President; a quorum for the purpose shall consist of two-thirds of the whole number of Senators, and a majority of the whole number shall be necessary to a choice. But no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice-President of the United States.
- Discussion about the citizenship qualifications to be president or vice president. Discussion about the residency requirement.
- Discussion about the significance of the ages of 18 and 21.
- Discussion about the complexities of the representative count during the time of slavery. Also it is important to think about the people in power and how they wanted things to work out.
- Discussion about the supposed intent of those who wrote the Constitution to prevent “mob rule” as it relates the idea that the president and VP cannot be from the same state.
- It is possible for the president and vice president to be elected from different parties. What would happen if Obama and Ryan were elected? It would be pretty interesting. There would also be motivation for the VP from the different party to work against the president for his/her removal.
- The president is supposed to be chosen by the majority of the votes of the electors. If there isn’t a majority, then the House of Representatives will vote for the president from the top three candidates. The same holds true for the election of the vice president.
- The election is just under two weeks away. It takes place on November 6th.
- Discussion about the Electoral College.
- Discussion of the following video on the Electoral College:
- Discussion about how originally the electoral college counted the second place vote of the electors, not the first place vote. This was to avoid having them vote for the familiar person. Jefferson was the last president to be elected this way. How ridiculous is it that the first choice was not elected!?! The ruling class could easily manipulate this by understanding the rules at the time. They may well have NOT voted for their first choice, so that their real choice could actually be elected. Even though the ruling class broke from Great Britain, they still wanted to rule over “lower” classes. This policy has since changed.
- In this video, the woman speaking also provides her interpretation when she says that the electoral college votes are proportionally representative of the state–not true. If this actually were the case, the state wouldn’t be sending all of the electoral votes to one candidate.
- Discussion about the fact that the electors are NOT required to vote according to the popular vote. The can vote any way they please.
- Discussion about the woman in the video saying that “your vote counts,” despite the fact that if you are in the minority vote, you receive no representation in the electors sent to vote for president and vice president.
- The electors are chosen by the political party, but they are supposed to be representatives of the people who send them there. Discussion about the fact that the electors are typically people who have worked their way up as volunteers in the party for many years. This is what makes the party feel confident that the people will vote their way. They have been indoctrinated into the system, and this is mostly true. Also, if the political party’s convention is where the electors are selected, then what parties are being shut out?
- People take the Constitution as if it is infallible. Yet, it is a reflection of the mindset of those who wrote it, along with the society and technology at that time. Why not update the Constitution. The woman in the video justifies leaving the Constitution as-is, because it is “too hard”.
- People talk about getting back to the Constitution, but they never question whether or not it is actually right.
- Discussion about ways in which the Constitution could be updated.
- Clearly the woman in the video is indoctrinated into the system. She is clearly an academic and a mother who has accepted whatever her instructor used to justify why things are the way they are.
- People need to get away from the idea of simply doing what is easier. What’s right is not always easier.
- Discussion about the mindset that “if the majority feels this way, we all feel this way.”
- Discussion of the following video on the Electoral College:
- Reiteration that Americans don’t directly vote for president. They are really telling their state how they want it to use its electoral votes. This is the key point. However, the assumption is made that the winner of the general election is automatically the president (based on the popular vote in the state awarding the electoral college votes). You are not voting for Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, or anyone else directly. If you vote in the general election, you are voting for how you want your state’s electors to award their electoral votes.
- Discussion about the U.S. territories–places like Guam, Puerto Rico, and American Samoa–not having the right to vote for the president. They have a ruler, who they have no say in electing.
- People often forget that the U.S basically still has colonies, yet still talk about freedom and democracy. These territories are given a lot of freedom in having their own government.
- In some ways these territories have the best of both worlds, being somewhat sovereign and yet having the protection of the U.S. There are some benefits of being in the “gray” area.
- Discussion about a law in Puerto Rico that made it a crime to own or display a Puerto Rican flag, to sing a patriotic tune, to speak or write of independence, or meet with anyone, or hold any assembly, with regard to the political status of Puerto Rico.
- Both Puerto Rico and Guam were acquired in 1898. The Virgin Islands was purchased from Denmark in 1917.
- Mention of the changeover in control of the Panama Canal in 2000.
- Mention of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba as one of the areas that the U.S. controls.
- Maine and Nebraska, unlike the other 48 states, use a “district system” in allocating their electoral votes. The rest of the states use a “winner takes all” approach to allocating their electoral votes. If more states moved to this district system, you could actually work third-party candidates into the system.
- Discussion about whether the people actually agree with the candidate who wins the popular vote not winning the election.
- If you are a U.S. citizen and you move to a U.S. territory, you cannot vote.
- Electors are free to vote the way they want. 87 times in the past, electors have voted differently than the way they were expected to vote.
- It is like perpetrating a fraud to tell people that they are voting for president, when they are not. The role and the power of the Electoral College is downplayed purposely. It is like having the power and choosing not to exercise it. The issue is that the electors actually have the power to vote other than the way they are expected. Just like the president under the NDAA has the right to use certain powers, although he says he will not. The issue is that he has power that the people do not want him to have.
- Discussion about what would happen if the electors went rogue and voted how they wanted to en masse.
- Since the electors can vote their conscious, they can vote anyway they want. People would still be outraged though.
- People accept the excuse given that the need for the electoral college was based on the fact that travel and communication was difficult when it was conceived, yet ignore the intent of the people who designed it this way. You are not considering the actual motives of these people. There could have been other reasons they wanted it that way. They had built into the system all of these loopholes and things that could allow them the upper hand and ability to maintain as much control as possible.
- People don’t really think about the intent and the mindset of the “founding fathers.” This is why when modern day people always talk about going back to the Constitution, there is this implied sexist, classist, and racist mentality. This is why it makes no sense that people who are part of the “protected groups” advocating this idea. Think about the intent of the people who wrote this document and didn’t have you in mind. Everything they said about people voting was to give people a sense that they had a say-so, but the actual broader framework is people in power having the power. And, if you read those first articles, it states explicitly that the legislature would vote for the highest people in power. It was their intent to keep the elite voting for the highest in power.
- You always have the same people in power, perpetuating their influence is because people constantly agree with working within this same framework.
- When you vote for President, VP and Congress you are casting a state vote because the state decides whom will represent it. The Secretary of State or other official per the state constitution certifies the votes from that state.
- Discussion about eligible voters.
- Historically, women and non-whites were excluded from voting in the United States. Neither Blacks nor women voted to get the right to vote.
- The 15th Amendment gave Blacks the right to vote, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was needed to actually ensure Blacks could vote. This is because people had figured out ways to keep Blacks from voting. This is still an issue today with voter disenfranchisement. Mention of how Florida has purged many people from the voting rolls, and it seems to be targeting “minorities” with this purging.
- Women received the right to vote after the suffrage movement and the 19th Amendment was passed in 1920.
- Almost anyone who is 18 or older can vote. One group that cannot is people who are convicted felons and people currently in prison or jail.
- Some feel that people who are in jail or prison should not be able to vote at all because they lose their rights. They are still citizens and should have a say about their actual treatment. If the candidates were required to address the issues, we may see some things change about the way they are treated in terms of conditions and handling of their cases.
- There are different categories of people according to their current involvement with the criminal justice system. In some states you may permanently lose your right to vote if you are a convicted felon. See this list for more details on the laws concerning convicted felons and those currently incarcerated.
- In Maine and Vermont, you can vote by absentee ballot while in jail.
- It is interesting that Maine is also the state that uses districting for their allocation of electoral votes, and they also put up a big protest in the elections about getting Ron Paul allocated some electoral votes at the Republican National Convention this year.
- Discussion about the relationship with felon and incarcerated voter disenfranchisement and the prison industrial complex. Blacks are still losing their voting rights in the same states that have historically sought to keep Blacks from voting.
- Discussion about how states don’t make it easy to get your voting privileges back.
- Even if you are on parole or probation, they have so many other requirements that voting is often not at the top of the list when their survival and freedom is at stake.
- In terms of representation, there is another group that people never think about–children. 25 percent of the population are children.
- Shouldn’t children have the right to vote at ages younger than 18? If the children are subject to the laws and rules, they should be able to participate in the process.
- If we lowered the voting age, we’d see a lot more issues being addressed.
- What if we set the voting age of 13, or possibly from 10 to 13 years old? They have the mental capacity to understand concepts. They are studying it in school. Perhaps they could vote in school. They should have some say in the governance of their lives.
- Discussion of being able to vote from birth.
- Discussion about the implications of people voting at a younger age.
- Discussion about a Facebook poll that we took a few months ago. 57 voted: 49 – I typically vote in all elections, 5 – I used to vote, but don’t anymore, 3 – I have never voted in my life and don’t plan to, 0 – I haven’t voted but plan to.
- The segment that said they don’t vote anymore could represent people who lost hope in the system, but it could also represent those who refuse to participate in the voting process as a form of protest against the system.
- Discussion about voter turnout over the years. We’ve seen it go down over time:
- There will probably be fewer people who turn out this year than in 2008. Heit guesses below 50 percent, and Cheri thinks it’ll be 52 or 53 percent, as compared with 57 percent in 2008.
- Discussion about political parties.
- What is a political party? It’s a group of people who have agreed that they are going to band together to form a power structure in the U.S. political system–a band of people who rally behind something and only support members of that party.
- Who controls the parties? People with money. They have gained power by getting more and more people to join the party. People who get influence in the party determine the course of the party. The influence is determined by money and power. You cannot even get invited to events if you don’t have money to contribute.
- Discussion about an article Heit wrote, Why Don’t We Just Take Over?, about how Michael Moore bragged about taking over the the Democratic Party in a small town. They bought their way in.
- In the U.S. we have two parties dominating the political landscape: Democrats and Republicans.
- Discussion about Beyonce and Jay-Z helping to raise money for Barack Obama. Mention of a video that Heit made about political action in the age of lobbyists:
- The actual power is in the money, because you use the money to actually get laws passed and repealed. This is not accomplished with the vote. Voting doesn’t get the job done in a system where money is influence.
- Discussion of the 2000 election between George W. Bush and Al Gore. Al Gore won the popular vote, but Bush won the electoral vote, with Florida being the deciding state with its electoral votes.
- What happens on election day in the East and Central time zones affects what people in the West do.
- What happened in 2000 at face value would have been perfectly acceptable to the “founding fathers.”
- Discussion about how everyone involved in the 2000 election got something, including Al Gore and all the money he made with his PowerPoint, An Inconvenient Truth. He even won a Nobel Peace Prize for his involvement with his climate change message.
- Discussion about how Al Gore’s choice not to contest the decision was partly to keep peoples’ faith in the current system. Notice that there was no big discussion about changing the electoral college system.
- Discussion about how Katherine Harris, Florida Secretary of State, co-chairman of the Bush campaign in Florida and a Bush elector in 2000, upgraded to a seat in the House of Representatives after she awarded the win to George W. Bush.
- Should I vote, does my vote count?
- In local and regional elections, it’s usually a “majority rule.” So, your vote counts directly in the election. Also, the population of the town, county, or state plays into how much your vote counts. The greater the population, the less weight your individual vote carries.
- When you vote for someone, you are entrusting someone else to make those decisions for you. You should consider whether this person is going to do most or some of what is in your best interest.
- On a national level, your vote is basically placed into “the big machine” as part of a complex decision-making process. As an individual you are very distant from the people actually making the decisions. The weight of your individual vote is practically null.
- You also must consider the personal aspirations of the politician. For instance, in Congress, their pay is based on their committee involvement and seniority. They have a vested interest in getting elected and reelected. They often have corporate donors, who they must appease continuously, so that they can finance their campaigns. So, when it comes to doing what is best for the people, they have minimal interest at best.
- In government politics there is always this process of making deals. This is the only way to get done, but the consequence is that compromise takes place. You never get exactly what you want.
- We don’t agree with the idea of lobbyists at all. It’s like cutting to the front of the line to have your issues heard.
- We don’t like the idea of basically buying the election. Money should not be an advantage for candidates.
- Regardless of what you decide to do with the election, you owe it to yourself to investigate and make your decision on the basis of factual evidence and research. This is your individual choice and decision. The decision is more valid if you have actually taken the time to think about your choices and fully understand the process. We encourage you to look into things and analyze your options.
- Discussion about the position that “if you don’t vote, you shouldn’t complain.” Blacks used their arguments to declare themselves to be independent. The fact that we are present here in no way obligates us to participate in the process on any level. Yet, we still have the right to complain about, assert, discuss what we don’t like about our environment. When you suggest that because a person doesn’t exercise the right to vote, you are implying that it is this system that gives them these rights in the first place. The system does not validate our existence. We validate the system… if we so choose.
- All of this discussion reminds Heit & Cheri of a song on their new album, “Improper Conduct,” called Get Out the Vote:
Come on people take a ride, see drug deals and homicide
Going outside is suicide, on some vote we can rely
So disenfranchised, or unemployment still rise
Lost a car and lost a job, plus the rent is sky high
Most don’t even own a home, some still owe on student loans
Jobs say “felons, peace, be gone,” bill collectors on the phone
Poverty ain’t mentioned, we poor as shit you politic
We ain’t in the middle class, fuck Obama, fuck a Mitt
Put them first and put us last, kissing campaign donors’ ass
Always saying Main Street, but MLK is where we at
50 years and little change, politics a rich man game
Ain’t got money, you ain’t playin
They say just vote, or don’t complain
Elections are just for show, ignore those who don’t have dough
Campaign stopping at Starbucks, but won’t go to the corner sto
Where we shoppin’ at the bottom, cheerin’ on your career options
We know we’ll never have options, all our votes and always problems
We don’t know which way is best to go
But one thing is fo’ sure, it won’t be settled by a vote
Stop asking for your say, and take what’s yours
Don’cha know the ballot ain’t the source
It can’t be the only recourse
When we say how broke we are, they say diplomas take you far
No money to fund the schools, but always some to stay at war
Enough for movies full of stars, network news is selling fear
Need some places to play ball, a new stadium every year
Plus we gotta go to Mars, we might see some water there
A billion don’t have some to drink, water’s right here everywhere
Millions die with hunger pains, food in multi-acre squares
Streams and ponds get filled with rain, but somebody say it’s theirs
They say to live you must compete, “you don’t work then you don’t eat”
You think all we do is sleep, some work all day and still don’t eat
Be wealthy because your dad or mother, be po’ ’cause your dad or mother
Everybody cast yo ballots fa folks who defend that structure
They say that the strong survive, we are weak that’s why we rot
Economy’s dependent on having haves and have-nots,
Have-nots can’t make a living, “it’s survival of the fittest”
‘Cause yo parents own a business we should think that you’re the fittest?
You wanna believe, the solution to our problem is
To trust the system to fix the disparages,
The disparages, the disparages
You wanna believe they’ll keep most of their promises
Trust the system to make amends,
Make amends, make amends
They make you believe, that it’s all just fairplay
Just trust the system, just trust the system,
And you’ll be equal come someday
But just wait and see, you’re giving all your power away
By trusting the system, damn you should listen
You’re gonna stay in the same state!