Clinton Proposes Election Holiday and Ex-Felon Voting
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, a possible White House candidate in 2008, joined 2004 nominee John Kerry and other Democrats Thursday in urging that Election Day be made a federal holiday to encourage voting. She also pushed for legislation that would allow all ex-felons to vote.
Standing with Massachusetts Sen. Kerry and other Democrats who had alleged voting irregularities in the 2004 contest, Clinton said, “Once again we had a federal election that demonstrates we have a long way to go.”
In addition to creating a federal holiday for voting, the bill would:
-Require paper receipts for votes.
-Authorize $500 million to help states make the changes in voting systems and equipment.
-Allow ex-felons to vote. Currently an estimated 4.7 million Americans are barred from voting because of their criminal records.
-Require adoption of the changes in time for the 2006 election.
Requiring a paper record for voting and federalizing the procedures involved are reasonable reforms given the recent spotlight on the irregularities inherent in any massive system. I suspect they will do little to actually solve the problems–they may simply be unsolvable–but they may go a long way to restoring confidence in the process. Making the changes in time for the 2006 election, which would presumably include the primaries lest we confuse voters by shifting technologies mid-cycle, strikes me as unfeasible. One would think it all doable in time for the 2008 cycle, though.
The other two proposals are more problematic. I have no huge philosophical objection to a federal holiday for election day but it is very much a transparent effort to create an advantage for the Democratic Party at taxpayer expense. The only workers more-or-less guaranteed to get federal holidays off are federal employees, a traditional Democrat supplicant block. Further, federal employees already tend to be given the ability to go vote during the workday, so this would really just ensure that they’re able to take a paid holiday to help Democrats get out the vote. If the idea is simply ensure people have time to vote, increasing the ability for absentee voting (which has its own set of problems) or moving election day to a Saturday makes more sense.
Automatically restoring the franchise to ex-felons would be another boon to the Democrats. Still, it’s not entirely clear to me what the rationale is for denying them the right to vote, presuming they’ve completed all requirements of their punishment, including any probationary period. If they’re out in public and free to come and go as they please, their ability to vote is the least of my worries. There is also the whole “taxation without representation” argument to be made.