It is hard to listen to the assurances that come at this time during campaigns that the right to vote is our most precious right as citizens.
It is hard to listen because Missourians apparently do not as a general practice believe that statement. And our legislature gives indications that it—although those who serve in it are there because of that right— cares little about strengthening that right.
Missourians have twice voted to reduce their right to vote. And a recent survey published by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch shows more than two-thirds of Missourians seem to think it’s a good idea to reduce their right even more.
The first time Missourians forfeited their right to vote was in 1992 when they adopted term limits for legislators, thus forbidding themselves from voting for their representatives and senators as often as they want to keep them representing them in Jefferson City.
A few years ago, voters threw away their right to vote when they voted to require voters in St. Louis and Kansas City to approve their city’s earning tax every five years. In approving the second half of that issue, they forever took away their right to decide whether their city should ever have such a tax. By approving the proposal they forfeited their right to decide what is best for their own communities.
So now we have the voter photo-ID issue on the ballot. And it appears that many voters have swallowed the bilge-water distributed by conspiracy theorists who claim that, “There is voter fraud but it’s just not prosecuted,” or that since people have to show ID cards to cash checks or rent motel rooms, or rent cars, they should have to do the same thing to vote.
Perhaps voters who do not distinguish between the PRIVILEGE of cashing a check or renting a motel room and the CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT to vote deserve to lose the freedom they presently have. And for those who say there’s fraud but it’s not prosecuted—we have not heard a single one of them offer any specifics of unprosecuted voter fraud in their own districts. If fraud at the voting places is so pervasive and such a great danger to our democratic form of government, don’t you think these watchdogs we have elected would blow the whistle on prosecutors who are not doing their jobs? They won’t because they can’t.
But there is cheap political advantage to be gained by encouraging doubt in the very system that put them in power. And power, not broad public service, is the goal. If the poll is right, voters are playing into their hands.
Talk is cheap. Constitutional rights have been expensively won. Sad to say, Missourians appear to be on the verge of wasting a right that has been paid for at great price.