Charles Bakst on Election Reform

Choose for yourself which one of Projo columnist Charles Bakst’s thoughts on election reform is worse.

  • Bakst opposes requiring photo-IDs at the polls…
    Without more evidence than I know of that voter fraud is a genuine problem, [Secretary of State Ralph Mollis] courts heartache by raising the prospect of requiring a photo ID at the polls. The idea will engender ill will and suspicion among disabled, elderly, or minority Rhode Islanders who now lack such cards and would find it inconvenient, or insulting, to have to acquire one.
    In other words, we have to wait until voter fraud occurs before we do anything — even though we already know how we would improve the system if massive fraud were to occur. It’s like saying a dam might break, and we know how to make some improvements that will improve its strength, but since it hasn’t broken yet, there’s no need to do anything right now!
    There is a serious dose of the soft-bigotry of low expectations built into the anti-photo ID argument; if voter registration cards that include a photo are issued during the standard voter registration process, then why should disabled, elderly, or minority Rhode Islanders be more insulted than anyone else who registers to vote? And on top of that, shouldn’t suspicions held by law-abiding individual citizens towards a lax process that can be easily gamed count for anything in our civic culture, or do you have to declare yourself as a member of an identity politics-focused interest group to have a voice in these matters?
  • And then, for something completely different…
    A bold step would be to find a way to deter candidates from hurling slime at one another, or at least improve the public’s ability, now nearly nonexistent, to sort through it.
    Negativity and distortion especially plague races for higher office. One candidate runs an attack ad, the foe retaliates with a response ad yelling “Liar!” and the arms race is on. People decide one candidate is as bad as the other and throw up their hands.
    Let’s see Mollis & Co. propose a vehicle, some kind of legally constituted arbitration tribunal, to which candidates aggrieved by a particular ad or exchange of ads could turn and obtain a judgment as to whom is telling the truth. Maybe retired Supreme Court justices could sit on it.
    Would this panel have an ability to impose penalties? If so, there’s a real first amendment problem with the government potentially punishing people for the content of their speech.
    But penalties or not, ask yourself this question: who would ultimately be responsible for disseminating the findings of Bakst’s panel to the public. The answer, of course, is the media — the media that is already capable, on its own, of explaining the truth, falsehood, and nuances of the political and policy issues arising during a campaign.
    Whether he meant it or not, Bakst’s implication is that mainstream media credibility has slipped to the point where the MSM now needs the voice of government behind it in order to make statements during political campaigns that will be trusted.
    This idea of forming a Ministry of Truth to monitor political campaigns needs to be filed under the category of “things not entirely thought through”.

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17 years ago

While the merits of photo IDs are debatable at best to me, I agree Merrill C. Bakst is dashing out on a slippery slope with the arbitration idea. I have some big differences with him on the mechanics of elections (his beliefs about candidates who don’t raise much money not being legitimate, his favoring the exclusion of third-party candidates from debates, etc.).

Scott Bill Hirst
Scott Bill Hirst
17 years ago

Numerous models exist throughout the United States concerning elections.
However should we adopt the procedure some states have that in a primary election you can chhoose candidates from BOTH parties at the same time?I am certain Louisiana and Alaska have this model for example.
The Republicans being the minority party in Rhode Island can be hurt when we have a strong candidate and those who do not select the GOP primary to vote in have a chance at the same time to vote for a candidate in a particular race considered a weaker opponent for the expected nominee of the other party that way they could enhance the prospects of the candidate they really favor.
While I won’t object to unaffilated or independents voting in party primaries that access can also deny party faithful from their preferred candidate.A number of states only allow party members to make nominations in a primary.

17 years ago

“some kind of legally constituted arbitration tribunal, to which candidates aggrieved by a particular ad or exchange of ads could turn and obtain a judgment as to whom is telling the truth. Maybe retired Supreme Court justices could sit on it.”
So does this mean we could be looking forward to the day when Chief Justice Frank Williams will be arbitrating truth?

17 years ago

Dull and predictable.
Sums up just about every column written by MCB in the last two decades.
How anyone can actually get through to the end of one of these columns without falling asleep is beyond me.

17 years ago

MCB is a loon! His ideas on elections are ridiculous. And if we use retired justices, wouldn’t we end up with the truth being decided by former Democrat legislators? Or as just mentioned and much worse, that loonie tune Frank Lincoln Williams?
Get an ID and get in line! Otherwise, go home.

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