It’s about time I addressed a number of commonplace beliefs held in the United States which, while they often sound great in sound bites, are almost always based on flawed reasoning. I call these beliefs “American myths.”

Since 2010 is an election year, the news media will almost certainly begin to run more and more articles about the importance of voting and how everyone should vote. While I agree that voting is important, I disagree with the idea that everyone should vote. This is a common American myth.

Let’s think about it. First and foremost, anyone who isn’t an American citizen cannot and should not vote. It’s considered an act of fraud in every state, territory and dominion of the United States. Voting is a responsibility and a privilege associated with citizenship, but this idea isn’t universally understood. In San Francisco, certain people want everyone, citizen or not, to vote on local city issues. While non-citizens living in San Francisco will certainly be affected by local votes, they still remain non-citizens. Membership can and should have its privileges.

Are you aware that in the United States, convicted felons cannot vote? Since a felon has already demonstrated that he or she is not a good citizen, society has determined that a convicted felon loses the right to vote. Yes, this right may be restored after the felon has served his or her sentence, but until then, a felon cannot vote. I can’t help thinking this is a wise rule, especially when I try to imagine Charles Manson casting a ballot.

No one should vote more than once. Even if an individual finds some clever way to circumvent the many laws designed to stop people from registering and voting multiple times, he or she is still committing voter fraud. I include in this category those who damage or spoil ballots, those who browbeat or threaten other voters, and those who coach the mentally incompetent into voting for their chosen candidate or issue. In the American democratic process, no one should be allowed to get away with the thoroughly non-egalitarian idea that some votes are more equal than others.

Apathetic citizens who are otherwise eligible to vote, but who haven’t bothered to register by a certain deadline, cannot vote in the next election. Even if you’re a fully eligible U.S. citizen, you must register in your local voting district if you want to cast a legal vote. If you haven’t taken the paltry amount of time and effort required to register to vote, you won’t have much cause for complaint when the day comes around and you can’t participate because you’re not on the voter rolls.

Finally, while it isn’t illegal, no one ought to vote in ignorance. If you don’t care or can’t be bothered to find out about the issues brought before the public, why participate? There’s not much point in voicing your opinion if you don’t have one. Granted, Joe and Jane Citizen certainly have the right to walk haplessly into the voting booth and vote for candidates and initiatives based on the results of a coin toss. But every citizen who votes in ignorance is failing in his or her civic duties. During the Democrat run-off leading up to the 2008 elections, I heard someone at work say she couldn’t decide whether to vote for Barack Obama because of his race, or for Hillary Clinton because of her gender. Neither of these reasons had anything to do with the issues at hand. One of my wife’s relatives once stated that she voted for JFK because he was such a good-looking man. But neither the candidate’s nor the voter’s race, gender, or pulchritude should have any bearing on a vote. Instead, we need to take the time to do the research–read the voter guides, study the pros and cons of the initiatives on the ballot, find out what we can about the history and political beliefs of the candidates, then vote for the people and ideas that best fit our own political philosophy.

So should everyone vote? No. Only eligible citizens who have taken the time to carefully study the issues and candidates should vote, and vote once. Anything else is either illegal or ignorant. And we’ve had enough of that.

Today is Election Day in the United States. Initially I thought this was a day specifically prescribed by the Constitution, but a quick reread shows that the first Tuesday of November (assuming it isn’t also the first day of the month) is not specified as election day. That was later decreed by Congress. This would explain why several states have come up with the idea of “early voting” this year as a response to the many cries of “disenfranchisement” raised in the 2000 election.

What is disenfranchisement? Rather than the generic definition of depriving someone of a franchise (“Go away, you! This is my McDonald’s now!”), disenfranchisement in this political arena means to deprive someone of the right to vote. There are laws on the books right now that strip convicted felons of the right to vote, as well as the rights of freedom and free assembly, among others. Because of their actions, felons have lost their right to vote. Our laws also disenfranchise another large group of people — non-Americans. If you are not a citizen of the United States, you may not vote in our elections. But give it some time, and you will find that more people will petition that non-citizens be given the right to vote here.

There are people who claim that accidentally voting for the wrong candidate disenfranchised them. Remember the folks in Floriduh? “I’m such a blithering idiot, I can’t follow a simple punch ballot.” Assuming that these people actually were thickheaded enough to pick the wrong guy, they did vote, so they were not disenfranchised. They were just morons. Then there is the often-used lie that a million blacks were disenfranchised in Florida because their votes were not recounted, or because there were over-votes (more than one vote for President on a ballot) or under-votes (no votes for President on a ballot). In each case, the people were allowed to vote; thus their rights were not denied. About the only voters who ran the risk of being disenfranchised were the military voters whom Democrat lawyers petitioned the state to ignore — this from the same people who chanted “every vote should count” later in November. Oh, the irony.

In reality, when Democrats and Republicans say that every vote should count, they mean two different things. Democrats mean that every vote should count by all the people, dead or alive, citizens or not, for as many times as they voted. This is why the dead of Chicago vote again and again, and why Chad Staton got crack cocaine from a NAACP worker in Ohio for filling out 124 false voter registration forms. “Vote early and vote often” is not just a silly phrase for Democrats. Republicans mean that every vote should be counted once, and only once, for every legal voter because that is what the law says. But this idea is too strict and narrow-minded for the Marxist Left. They want their power back, and what’s a little voter fraud between friends as long as they get what they want?

I’ll tell you what I want — I want every American citizen who cares to vote, to vote once and only once. I would not force people to vote. I would not fine people who choose not to vote. But I would strictly prosecute anyone who votes illegally in any way. The first thing I would do is require everyone to register to vote again, making all current registrations null and void. To register to vote, each citizen would have to prove his or her identity with a valid photo ID and proof of U.S. citizenship. When I got my new driver’s license last month, I had to prove I was who I said I was with a valid out-of-state license and birth certificate papers, and having proven who I was, I took advantage of the “motor voter” laws to register right then to vote. But I could have walked down to the county voter registration office and registered to vote with nothing but some proof that I lived in the county. No photo ID or proof of U.S. citizenship was necessary in that office; it would have been easy to fool them. Clearly, proving your identity for a driver’s license is more important in this state than ensuring a clean voter registration roll.

Second, I would ensure that you must be present to vote. This means I would not allow absentee ballots, since unless you are present there is no way of proving you are who you say you are. If you cannot be in your home district to vote, then you cannot vote. The only exception I would allow would be for active military deployed overseas. When a voter arrives to vote, three things would be necessary: a valid photo ID like a current state driver’s license or U.S. passport, proof of citizenship, and proof of registration.

Third, I would ensure that the ballots are not easily tampered with. After proving identity and citizenship, the voter would then sign his or her name to the voter roll and fingerprint both the signature and the ballot. This ballot would be numbered and trackable. Punch-card ballots are too easily tampered with and would not be allowed. Neither would I allow the paperless electronic voting machines being advocated around the U.S. It is too easy for votes to disappear when there is nothing physical to count again if needed. I would only allow optically scanned ballots that the voter completes by filling in the appropriate circle with a pen. These ballots can be read quickly by counting machines, and recounted easily. This system combines the best parts of computer ballot tabulation and the physical paper trail necessary to ensure the honesty of elections.

Finally, I would punish harshly anyone who falsely registers or tampers with ballots. Since these people have tampered with the voting process, one just punishment would be permanent disenfranchisement. It is only fitting, after all.

Sadly, I am realistic enough to know that these steps will never be taken in my lifetime. But I can dream.

So get out there and vote today. If you are registered, and if you do it honestly. If not, let me sincerely invite you to go directly to hell, do not pass GO, do not collect $200.

Addendum (11/2/2004): Drudge is reporting some exit poll results before the polls officially close with a caution that these results are very unreliable. If the results are unreliable, and have been historically unreliable, WHY THE #@$% ARE YOU REPORTING THEM! Grrr! If I could, I would ban all reporting of exit poll results until after the polls actually close. You can scream about a violation of your freedom of speech, but I believe that right is trumped by the responsibility of not allowing the election to be affected in mid-polling.

Addendum (11/3/2004): Here I am, awake at 5 am, and looking over election results for the past hour. I am so very glad that President Bush pulled such large numbers to make it harder to repeat the prolonged vote haggling we got in 2000 in Florida. This year it looks like Ohio is the contested state, but with President Bush significantly in the lead, Ohio’s 20 electoral votes should be given to President Bush and seal the election. The only possible snag are the provisional ballots, and while there are currently more than the vote difference between President Bush and Senator Kerry, they won’t matter. Captain Ed points out that Ohio will only swing to Senator Kerry if 100% of the provisional ballots are accepted and if 100% of the accepted ballots go to Senator Kerry. And neither will happen. I hear the fat lady singing, Senator, don’t you?

Addendum (11/3/2004): Apparently Senator Kerry heard her and conceded. This shows some class on his part more than Al Gore. What else can I say but “Four more years!”

Addendum (11/9/2004): There are people who are so sorry that President Bush won. And others who are not sorry. I submitted the following image to the sad-sack crowd, but I doubt it will ever be posted.

Yarr harr harr harr!