To the editor of THE EAGLE:
A Jan. 22 letter to the editor titled "State voting changes invite fraud" argues that these changes undermine the integrity of the voting process. I agree with the writer that this integrity is vital to democracy. Some of the statements he posits as facts in support of this view are actually only opinions presented without evidence. The quotations that follow are from that letter with the exception of Lincoln’s words at Gettysburg and my final revision.
"It looks to me like our state Senate seeks to make itself more irrelevant than it already is." Disliking what the Senate does doesn’t mean that body or its actions are irrelevant; it only means someone does not like them.
"With the pre-registration requirements of today, we still have far too many cases of voter fraud." Saying it is so does not make it so. On the other hand, declaring illegal some legitimately cast votes, as happened in Florida a few years back did deny literally thousands of citizens their right and responsibility to participate in government.
Comparing "buying alcohol or cigarettes, getting a driver’s license, flying on an airplane, collecting unemployment, signing up for food stamps, establishing a bank account or a credit or a debit account" to voting misses a vital point. Although all these activities are part of daily living for many people, they are rights that flow from democracy, not a vital responsibility to participate in government "of the people, by the people, and for the people."
Yes, voting is as much a responsibility as it is a right. In this light, the Senate actions expanding the opportunities for exercising this responsible right enhance democracy. Is there inherent in these changes the possibility of fraud? Perhaps, but less so than in the days when Boston school children had Election Day off so some could be driven from polling place to polling place to cast votes in the names of citizens whose current residence was a local cemetery. Just ask my old teaching colleague, a Boston native. And disenfranchising voters by whatever means does not create more informed voters; it only eliminates voters without regard to how well-informed they are. Over 46 years of teaching, I saw again and again that giving people respect and encouragement produces more positive results than disrespect and expecting the worst.
Finally, I accept the writer’s conclusion. I hope he also accepts mine. Along with "Even one fraudulent vote is too many’’ add "Even one disenfranchised voter is too many." Whether they are equally important to democracy is an interesting subject for a civics class or any thoughtful discussion about democratic rights and responsibilities.
D. ROBERT GARDINER