Why Can People Without ID's, and Ted Stevens, Vote?
Why isn't ID required when registering to vote? Our country was built on the honor system, which is sad because it looks like there aren't many honorable people left! One needs ID for pretty much everything else, so why not? This is important.
You are preaching to the choir. I'd like the United States to adopt a national photo ID card -- one that could be used to verify voting eligibility, among other things. In many other countries, the adoption of foolproof voting cards has been not only a means of ensuring cleaner elections, but also of empowering all voters. It is an oddly American belief to maintain that the current ambiguous maybe-you-can-vote-maybe-you-can't-so-come-find-out system, run by local politicos, is the more liberal alternative. The absence of a credible citizenship card creates all sorts of problems when we then turn to social security cards and driver's licenses to fill needs they were never designed to fill.
Registration requirements vary tremendously by state, but the 2002 "Help America Vote Act" sensibly requires first-time voters in federal elections to show identification when voting if they didn't have to do so when registering (but even then, the law bends over backwards in allowing almost any plausible form of ID).
Asking people to verify their identity when voting is so politically charged because of our history of pernicious efforts by local authorities, often racist authorities, to suppress the vote. But again, liberals would be wise to view universal, foolproof ID cards as more of an opportunity than a threat -- because the more discretion you take away from election officials administering ambiguous requirements, the more you empower historically marginalized voters. The trick, of course, is making such national cards easily obtainable. If countries like Mexico have mastered this, surely the U.S. can.
Dispassionate experts, such as the 2005 Carter-Baker Commission, usually favor steps to require voters to verify their identity. And it was heartening that, in contrast to the tiresome partisanship usually surrounding this issue, it was the Supreme Court's leading liberal jurist, John Paul Stevens, who authored the court's April opinion upholding Indiana's law requiring all voters to show a photo ID at the time of casting their ballots.
Why is it that a convicted felon cannot vote, but Sen. Ted Stevens, as a convicted felon, can run for office and serve as a senator?
The Constitution establishes the eligibility requirements for Senate candidates: You must be at least 30 years old, a U.S. citizen for nine years and a resident of the state you will represent. Hence, Ted Stevens meets the criteria (it's not even close on the age one).
Presumably the wise voters of Alaska will reach the conclusion that they don't want someone as corrupt as Ted "Can I borrow that chair for seven years?" Stevens representing them. If they do re-elect him, however, the Senate can vote by a two-thirds majority to expel him. The senators would probably wait until his appeal decision, but if he lost that, he'd be a goner for sure. You betcha, as they say in Alaska.
Meanwhile, Alaska's Department of Law has answered the existentialist question of whether the senator can vote for himself. Yes, he can, at least for now. Alaska state law, to your point, bars convicted felons (convicted of crimes of "moral turpitude") from voting, but the state's lawyers have determined that a person is not a "convicted felon" until the time of sentencing, which in this case is scheduled for February.
Alaska's law disenfranchising felons is fairly liberal, in that it allows them to re-register to vote as soon as they have served their sentence. Virginia, by contrast, is one of the last remaining states to impose a lifetime ban on voting by most convicted felons.
What happens to the money a candidate has after the election? Does it revert to the party he or she represents?
JJ in PA
In the bad old days, you may recall, federal lawmakers often were able to use their surplus campaign war chests upon retirement for personal use. No longer -- at least not legally.
Candidates for federal office, including the presidency, retain control after an election over unspent private contributions they have received. The decent thing to do, it seems to me, would be to return the unused funds to contributors. But the law allows candidates to keep the money for their next race or give it to charity, to the party or to other candidates running for federal office (though they have to observe same limits other donors do). They can also convert their untapped war chests into political action campaigns.
This can give a losing candidate a source of leverage and clout for years to come after an election, but hoarding too much has its downsides too. Many Democrats are still furious at John Kerry for having $15 million left over after the 2004 vote. At the rate Barack Obama has been raising money, he may end up with enough of a surplus to bail out a Wall Street bank, but don't expect any bitterness this time around, given how far he has outspent John McCain.
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