When ACORN was caught stacking voter rolls with fake names leading up to the 2008 election, we stood up and took notice. Maybe an aberration, maybe part of a plan to undermine our system of elections. On Election Day, Black Panthers were inside a Pennsylvania polling station intimidating voters. They ultimately got off and the prosecutor who went after them was “reassigned”. Still, maybe it is simply coincidence. What if a high-profile state Attorney General argued that voters have no right to vote in secret?
I’m not talking about Card Check, I’m talking about the voting all of us do in every election. Consider the following words argued in Champaign County Court in Illinois by the Illinois Attorney General’s office headed by Lisa Madigan:
While plaintiff attempts to suggest to the Court that there is a fundamental right to a secret ballot, no such right exists. (bottom of Page 11 of pleading)
The Attorney General’s office argues that the United States Constitution, nor any fundamental right, protect a voter from being able to vote in secret. In effect, this means that it is only out of mere courtesy that the government doesn’t simply sit in the voting booth with you making sure you are making “fully informed decisions”.
The words need no parsing, read them for yourself. Lisa Madigan is no outsider. She is the daughter of the immensely politically powerful House Speaker, Michael Madigan. Michael Madigan is also chair of the Democratic Party of Illinois. When Blagojevich became a liability (after he was arrested), Michael Madigan saw him run out of town on a rail. The Madigans are the political power family of Illinois.
If they’re pushing for something, you take it seriously. And they’re pushing to take away your right to a secret ballot in Illinois. The matter at hand was created by a seemingly innocuous piece of legislation passed in 2007. The bill, SB 662, clocked in at almost 200 pages. A few clauses require error checking of a ballot. If you didn’t vote in certain races on a ballot, the voting machine will reject your ballot. There are many legitimate reasons to undervote (decline to vote in a particular race), first and foremost, because it’s your ballot and you should be able to vote however you darn well please.
The law requires the machine to reject the ballot and an election judge to come down and talk to you. At first, they’ll ask you to vote in all the races or to destroy the ballot and go home. At the election judge’s ultimate discretion, they can “override” the machine and process the vote anyway. But if you don’t vote in a way the establishment likes, you have an election judge standing over you (and your ballot) talking to you about it.
Seems minor, but the Attorney General isn’t saying this interaction violates the secret ballot. The Attorney General argues you have no right to a secret ballot in the first place. This issue came to light because a reform-minded Republican candidate for Governor in Illinois stood up to the Chicago-machine Democrats. Senator “Dede Scozzafava” Dillard voted to pass the bill. Another was too busy to vote, Senator Brady. Yet another was working for a city government last year who put armed guards in a polling station themselves.
Technically, the regulations (not the law) require the election judge to not look at a voter’s ballot. Of course, there are no real penalties if they do. With Chicago’s storied history of voter fraud, that regulation is a bit like asking a teenage boy to go to a strip club but not look at any of the girls.
The one things separating the United States from the many banana republics of the world that does have “voting rights” is that our elections have secret ballots free of voter intimidation. This statement by the Illinois Attorney General taken to its conclusion would allow ACORN workers to “help” voters inside the voting booth to make sure they didn’t make mistakes. Or worse, Black Panthers could handle poll security.