Walt McLeod’s nephew the gubernatorial candidate took aim at populist sentiment among Democrats with this release a few moments ago:
McLeod Pushes Election Reform:
Vows to Fight for Early Voting in SC
Today, Democratic candidate for Governor Mullins McLeod pushed to reform our election laws by making it easier for South Carolinians to exercise their fundamental right to vote. McLeod vowed to fight for early voting in South Carolina and pledged to veto any legislation that would reduce a voter’s access to early or absentee voting.
McLeod’s statement came after published reports revealed that the legislature’s attempts to pass early voting are not only failing, but that Republicans have passed legislation in the House that would prevent most in-person absentee voting.
“The current crop of career politicians in Columbia aren’t getting the job done,” McLeod said. “When I’m Governor we will have early voting in South Carolina just like so many states do now. And if the legislative Republicans keep trying to make it difficult for our citizens to vote, they’ll feel the full power of the Governor’s office come down on them. Just like people who live in North Carolina and Georgia, South Carolinians deserve the ability to vote and make their voice heard in an efficient and convenient way that fits in with their busy schedules,” McLeod added.
McLeod said that the entire debate on this issue demonstrates the culture of misplaced priorities that keep South Carolina near the bottom. “We should have early voting, that’s a no brainer. There shouldn’t even be a debate. Instead of fighting over this, we need to be working to create jobs and improve our schools. That’s what people expect from their elected officials. Once again career politicians in Columbia have failed us.”
Sorry, Mullins, but I still don’t hold with it. To avoid retyping what I said before, here’s an excerpt from one of my last columns at The State (the one in which I dismissed both sides on the photo ID debate):
While I’m at it, I might as well abuse a related idea: early voting.
We’ve had a number of debates about that here on the editorial board, and I’ve been told that my reasons for opposing early voting are vague and sentimental. Perhaps they are, but I cling to them nonetheless.
While Democrats and Republicans have their ideological reasons to fight over this idea, too, it’s a communitarian thing for me. I actually get all warm and fuzzy, a la Frank Capra, about the fact that on Election Day, my neighbors and I — sometimes folks I haven’t seen in years — take time out from our daily routine and get together and stand in line (actually allowing ourselves to be, gasp, inconvenienced) and act as citizens in a community to make important decisions.
I’ve written columns celebrating that very experience, such as one in 1998 that quoted a recent naturalized citizen proudly standing in line at my polling place, who said, “On my way here this morning, I felt the solemnity of the occasion.”
I believe in relating to my country, my state, my community as a citizen, not as a consumer. That calls for an entirely different sort of interaction. If you relate to public life as a consumer, well then by all means do it at your precious convenience. Mail or phone or text it in — what’s the difference? It’s all about you and your prerogatives, right? You as a consumer.
Something different is required of a citizen, and that requirement is best satisfied by everyone getting out and voting on Election Day.
With or without photo IDs.
Now I’m sure young Mr. McLeod is perfectly serious and sincere in advocating early voting. Set aside the canned, trite, generic populist language that seems to plague his releases (“The current crop of career politicians in Columbia;” yadda-yadda — all that’s missing is a reference to “good ol’ boys”). He means it, as do most Democrats.
I had a conversation about this with Capt. James Smith at a fund-raiser that Doug Jennings and Joel Lourie had for him at the erstwhile Townhouse last week, the same day that his op-ed on the subject ran in The State.
I explained my communitarian opposition to the idea, and he said what about older folks who have trouble waiting in line? I said they can vote early now; my parents always do. He said they won’t be able to do so in the future, with the Republicans now limiting the absentee voting that already occurs. And I said “Aw, the Republicans just did that because you provoked ’em.” And he laughed. Then he acknowledged I was probably right that what the GOP members had done probably would not stand — where would Republicans be with all the old white people mad at them? But in the meantime, he seemed resolved to take what advantage he could from their tactical error. (Finally, I told James that at least the remaining editors on the editorial board of The State saw things his way — I was the holdout on early voting.)
Anyway, I hear what James and Mullins and the rest are saying, but I am unpersuaded. They point to the long lines back in November, and I say so what? I celebrate the long lines as signs of a vigorous representative democracy. I ran across this chart the other day (let me know if you have better ones) that show that in the ’08 election, S.C. went from 50th to 41st in voter turnout, with a 9.8 percent increase over 2004. This is the Obama effect that Democrats celebrate, and they want to present it as a symptom of something that needs fixing? Sorry, that doesn’t add up for me. If participation were on a downward slide, they might have an argument. As things stand, they don’t.