One line about the pandemic goes: “it has changed everything.” Much of the talk is about where work will take place or whether telehealth will become more common. In the last week, however, the headline narratives have often been about voting. When should it begin? How should it be conducted? What kind of identification, if any, should be required?
And then, as with so much of contemporary politics, we started screaming at each other. An especially charged action, coming in from left field, further enlivened the debate. Major League Baseball (MLB) decided to move it’s All-Star game from Atlanta to Denver to protest the Georgia legislature version of the post-pandemic voting rules. It decided to play pitch and catch with a javelin.
I do not have a settled view on what the post-pandemic voting methods and procedures should be. My first vote was cast on Election Day at an assigned polling place, in person and only after I showed a voter registration card.
Recently voting in the presidential year begins weeks before Election Day, if there still is one, could be done by mail or inserted in drop boxes and in some states same-day registration was possible. Also, in some States voting for President begins before the Presidential Debates, which many consider the most informative moments in knowingly selecting a new President.
While voting should be readily accessible to everyone, informed voting should be the aspirational goal. But to suggest the implementation of such a goal would undoubtedly draw rebuke from angles I can only imagine.
It should, of course, be understood that our two benighted political parties will do whatever they can to tilt the rules in their favor. If you doubt that take a look at the gerrymandering process and results. So when President Biden chose to call the Georgia legislative actions “Jim Crow 2.0”, his characterization was simply part of a power play.
Biden’s characterization, at least on the surface, caused MLB to decamp from a City where African-Americans occupy the highest reaches of government and business and make up a majority of the population, to Denver, Colorado, a largely white city.
A look back is instructive. Maynard H. Jackson Jr. was Atlanta’s first African-American Mayor. He took office in 1973. A New York Times obituary following his death in 2003 re-characterized Atlanta in the image of Mayor Jackson: “Maynard H. Jackson Jr., who as this city’s first black mayor embodied the seismic shift in political power from Atlanta’s white establishment to its growing black middle class, died this morning after collapsing at an airport in Washington.” Maynard Jackson was followed in office by Andrew Young, who also served as President Jimmy Carter’s United Nations Ambassador, and then Jackson was re-elected after Young’s two terms with 79% of the vote. Seismic shift, I’ll say.
I am not a fan of our political system’s two party duopoly. Binary choices are often senseless ones. But, taking a look at the furthest northwest State, Alaska, and the one occupying that same position in the northeast, Maine, I am pleased “rank-choice voting” is getting a good test. Perhaps it is the reform we need.
We should also have a bipartisan group recommend post-pandemic voting rules so at least the legislators who have the power to set the rules will have guidance from something beyond the narrative driven media to look at.
Finally, let me return to President Biden. He promised a unifying style of leadership. Had he chosen to live up to his pledge, he would have set an historic standard. Instead he has decided to overreach, to go well beyond bi-partisanship into a swamp of illusory promises funded by staggering levels of debt, while letting Republicans off the hook. Republicans should be re-imaging their Party; instead they have been given a list of things to be against.
Al Sikes is the former Chair of the Federal Communications Commission under George H.W. Bush. Al recently published Culture Leads Leaders Follow published by Koehler Books.