Clearly, enforcement of laws against illegal voting ought to be at the top of every freedom lover's list, but illegal voters are only part of the problem. There are also those who are what may charitably be called 'low-information' voters, those who will cheerfully cast their ballot for whichever candidate promises them the largest amount of unearned swag. How did we get to this pass?
It has been widely accepted in these presently united States that voting is a right, or at least the Left states that it is a right, and that the right to vote is one of the essential basic rights of human beings. In many respects, the right to vote is a sacred cow that few dare to kick. I have no doubt, however, that allowing any and everyone to vote is arguably another one of the reasons why these presently united States are in such dire straits, nor am I alone in my thinking. Alexis De Tocqueville warned of the dangers of unfettered democracy, and the Founders knew it well. Robert Heinlein, author and inventor, warned of the dangers of allowing everyone to vote. Just to remind you, O Gentle Reader, this nation, these presently united States, was constituted as a representative Constitutional Republic, not a democracy. So, let us proceed to boot the sacred bovine and see what sort of wisdom or insight we can acquire in the event!
Remember the first question one ought always to ask- "What is the essential function of government?" To protect individual rights. Question- Is voting, in and of itself, in fact a primary individual right? Recently, the (occasional) resident of the Spite House has attempted to allow illegal immigrants to have the vote. If voting is a basic human right, that might be a defensible position; more on this shortly. Another question- Who benefits from unrestricted voting? Clearly, the less productive members of a culture, whether they are the ruling class who hold political power because of the vote, or those dependent on government largesse, benefit from the power of the vote through legal means which take wealth from the productive, but there is more to voting than that.
While you are pondering those questions, how has voting been carried out in the past? During my research on this topic, it's become clear, unsurprisingly, that voting is largely carried out using the technology of the time. There is a good website that touches on the topic HERE. Whether by colored balls, hand-written paper ballots, preprinted party tickets, government printed secret ballots (the Australian secret ballot), or modern electronic voting machines, voting has been a part of Western civilization for centuries.
Before we tackle the main issue, let's think a bit about the whole idea of voting. Why does it matter? (Many will tell you that it does not. The narrow margins in the recent elections for President and many local offices argue otherwise.) What does voting do?
Voting matters because it ultimately is about using the coercive power of the state to require or forbid individual action, to define the limits of the personal action of otherwise free people, or to limit and define the power of government. It is about making laws, in theory, at least, within the limits of what the State is allowed to do by both the Federal and State constitutions and the common law. Voting selects those who are supposed to represent us, and also can directly change the laws through ballot measures and the like.
But is it a right? Lots of things in this culture at present are CALLED rights; many are not. For example, health care is erroneously called a right, likewise, employment and many other things which are NOT individual rights. What did Ayn Rand, champion of individual rights, have to say on this subject?
'“Rights” are a moral concept—the concept that provides a logical transition from the principles guiding an individual’s actions to the principles guiding his relationship with others—the concept that preserves and protects individual morality in a social context—the link between the moral code of a man and the legal code of a society, between ethics and politics. Individual rights are the means of subordinating society to moral law.' (from "the Virtue of Selfishness" p92 by Ayn Rand)
She goes on to say on page 93- "A 'right' is a moral principle defining and sanctioning a man’s freedom of action in a social context. There is only one fundamental right (all the others are its consequences or corollaries): a man’s right to his own life. Life is a process of self-sustaining and self-generated action; the right to life means the right to engage in self-sustaining and self-generated action—which means: the freedom to take all the actions required by the nature of a rational being for the support, the furtherance, the fulfillment and the enjoyment of his own life. (Such is the meaning of the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.)
The concept of a 'right' pertains only to action—specifically, to freedom of action. It means freedom from physical compulsion, coercion or interference by other men.
Thus, for every individual, a right is the moral sanction of a positive—of his freedom to act on his own judgment, for his own goals, by his own voluntary, uncoerced choice. As to his neighbors, his rights impose no obligations on them except of a negative kind: to abstain from violating his rights.
The right to life is the source of all rights—and the right to property is their only implementation. Without property rights, no other rights are possible. Since man has to sustain his life by his own effort, the man who has no right to the product of his effort has no means to sustain his life. The man who produces while others dispose of his product, is a slave. Bear in mind that the right to property is a right to action, like all the others: it is not the right to an object, but to the action and the consequences of producing or earning that object. It is not a guarantee that a man will earn any property, but only a guarantee that he will own it if he earns it. It is the right to gain, to keep, to use and to dispose of material values." So that is what Rand has said about rights.
So if the primary function of legitimate government is to protect individual rights, which means, first and foremost, to protect the right to private property, how does voting become a right? Does the freedom to own your life and the fruits of your labor include the right of choosing your political representatives? We supposedly live in a constitutional republic, wherein the government is forbidden to do anything that violates individual rights, or anything else for that matter, except that which is specifically permitted, and the people are free to do as they wish, except where constrained by the rights of others. Voting cannot, or at least should not, infringe upon anyone's rights in such a system. Any such collective action which DOES infringe on actual individual rights would be struck down, at least in a just society with legitimate government.
Historically, both here in these presently united States, and elsewhere, various polities have restricted voting along various lines, by sex, race, education, and economic condition. This began to change here after the War between the States. The 15th Amendment, the last of the Reconstruction Amendments ratified in 1870, defined voting as a right and removed race as a criterion, but retained the prohibition against female voting, and continued to allow States to impose literacy tests and economic qualifications for voting. While some Western states allowed women to vote after the War of Northern Aggression, women did not get the vote nationwide until the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920. The 19th amendment reads "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation."
This is interesting. Both the 15th and 19th Amendments do identify voting as a right, and forbids restriction of voting based on sex, but do not forbid other constraints on voting. In fact, a variety of restraints on this 'right' exist- if you are not a citizen of the US, you are not supposed to vote. Convicted felons lose their 'right' to vote. In the past, the franchise was limited to property owners, business owners, and journeymen tradesmen; there were also requirements that voters be literate. Many of the literacy laws were part of Jim Crow efforts to prevent former slaves from exercising the franchise, but other similar restrictions antedated the Reconstruction era. Young people don't have the 'right' to vote; it used to be that you had to be 21 to vote, now the age is 18. We don't allow corporations to vote, although legally they are considered 'persons' and can own property.
Of course, people vote for infringements of their rights all the time, which argues strongly for a better class of voter. And here we are again. Is voting an unlimited individual right?
Historically, clearly the answer is 'No'. Voting was constrained by the Founders to those who they saw had both the ability to comprehend the issues, and a significant stake in society.
Morally, again the answer is no. Voting, insofar as it stays within the limits imposed on Government by a Constitutional Republic, has no ability to touch individual rights, and is therefore not a right, but rather a privilege. When voting degenerates to the point that it is used as a vehicle to enrich the wealthy through robbing the productive, it is a violation of individual right, not a validation. Voting is using the power of the State to enact laws, and therefore has the potential to both violate rights and to enforce them, depending on the legislation.
From a practical standpoint, extending the franchise to the culturally illiterate has been a disaster for these presently united States. It is time to re cognize this and to try for something different, and hopefully better.
With regard to all who serve the Light,