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.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.
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.
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”.