More respect is needed for election outcomes

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There’s no crying over elections.

Or there shouldn’t be. It’s disrespectful to the voters who placed a particular candidate in office.

First, we had protesters and resisters over the legitimate election of President Donald Trump in 2016. Being disappointed that your candidate doesn’t win is understandable. But disrespecting the vote from those who put him in office becomes divisive.

Now, we’re seeing that same mentality creating divisiveness from the midterm elections.

Georgia candidate, Democrat Stacey Abrams, lost the governor’s race to Republican Brian Kemp by about 50,000 votes. Abrams had the support of 1,923,582 voters. That’s a lot.

But 1,978,383 Georgians voted for her opponent. That’s a little more and enough to secure the win. These facts—and people—can’t be ignored, but she still disrespected all Kemp voters when she said, “Let’s be clear: This is not a speech of concession.”

Abrams has claimed possible fraud, but evidence of it has not been produced. What she does have are certified election results—results showing that nearly 2 million Georgians voted for her opponent. It may be tough for her to acknowledge, but a thin win for Kemp is still a win.

Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, Martha McSally, also lost her election by about 50,000 votes. She lost the Arizona seat to Democrat Kyrsten Sinema. Surely, McSally would have liked to focus on the support she received from 1,059,124 voters. But it would have been disrespectful of the 1,097,321 Arizona citizens who voted for her opponent. She graciously conceded the race by saying, “I wish her all success as she represents Arizona in the Senate.”

McSally understands that we’re not entitled to much, but in this country we’re still entitled to vote for the candidate of our choice. And that vote must be respected.

Losing a hard-fought election by just 50,000 votes when 2 million or 4 million are cast must be gut-wrenching. It doesn’t have to be divisive, though.

Divisiveness happens when there’s a refusal to accept that others have the right to form political opinions and vote in a way that doesn’t match your own. It isn’t what we do. It’s what we not allow others to do.

Without this considerate understanding, family and friends can morph into “deplorables” or “leftists” instead of just citizens doing their best for country and family.

And when things don’t go our way, there’s always another opportunity in two, four or six years to try again. Voters don’t always get it right, but they’re pretty good at making adjustments and corrections. Midterms are notorious for that. But in some ways, every election comes down to answering one central question, “Is an adjustment needed?”

Abrams and McSally have proven they are viable candidates with strong support. They are certainly worthy of trying again in their next election cycle, if it’s what they desire. Showing respect for the vote and all voters—whether they were for you or against you—would be a great place to start.

In the last presidential election, my three adult children all voted for a different candidate. Surprisingly, it created a sense of contentment for this fiscal conservative. They think for themselves. It’s what should be expected and then respected of every voter.

Advocate your beliefs without dismissing someone else’s. Exercise your right to vote without disrespecting the vote of others.

You will win some. You will lose some.

Nothing, at all, to cry about there.

Path to voting for felons is reasonable

The debate over disenfranchised felons misses the mark. There’s a lot of indignation about lost voting rights, but it’s really a story about the lack of transparency and lack of desire.

felon voting

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Democrats and Republicans have made the issue a political football. Most Democrats assert that voting is a right—not a privilege—that should be restored immediately after being released from prison. Its belief system is helped out by the fact that many felons are low-income individuals who tend to vote Democrat. Many Republicans view voting as a privilege belonging to law-abiding citizens. The notion is that by choosing to commit a felony, an individual makes a simultaneous choice to lose voting rights. Those rights can be restored after release from prison by completing an application process, but some believe these potential Democrat voters may not go through that effort.

Both political parties want control of the vote, but what does the average, newly-released felon want?

There are dozens of agencies, charitable organizations and ministries designed to help a felon reenter society. Some help with basic needs of food, clothing and housing. Others help with employment opportunities and everything that goes along with getting that first job, like obtaining a new driver’s license.

What’s been getting missed, is the conversation about how to restore voting rights. As soon as the prison doors swing open, the Iowa Department of Corrections should be required to notify all released felons of the process required to restore voting rights and offer assistance if needed.

The tragedy isn’t that voting rights were taken away because of the crime committed. It’s that the process to restore those rights isn’t transparent.

It’s the spark that eventually led to the current Griffin v. Pate firestorm. Kelli Jo Griffin, a convicted felon, didn’t know about the, “Application for Restoration of Citizenship Rights.” She thought her voting rights would be automatically restored after her debt to society was paid. Better communication might have helped to avoid the lawsuit that is being argued before the Iowa Supreme Court.

It shouldn’t be a secret on how to be a voter in Iowa. Understanding how to restore voting rights should be as common as knowing how to get your driver’s license back after it has expired. Most people know that once a license is expired, an individual must spend a fair amount of time and effort to restore driving privileges. One must pass a written and driving test, and provide supporting documentation of identification. People know the rules. And if it does expire—for anyone, felon or non-felon—individuals will exert the effort needed. Because driving is important to them.

The U.S. Department of Transportation states that about 87 percent of the driving-age population has a license. Compare that percentage with the 42 percent of individuals who, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, exercised their right to vote in the 2014 elections.

Citizens in this country care about voting about half as much as they care about driving.

Transparency is the first tool to combat the disenfranchising of felons. Information on how to restore voting rights should be made available at the time of release and assistance provided if needed.

Then comes the tougher part—desire. In the state of Iowa, it takes desire on the part of the felon to become a voting citizen again by making the effort to pay restitution, complete the application process, and provide supporting documentation. The newly-streamlined application has 13 questions. They’re basic, fact-based questions like name, address and date of birth, as well as date of crime, conviction and release.

I believe in second chances. Kelli Jo Griffin does too. She’s part of the 42 percent who want to vote.

Armed with knowledge and effort, her goal could have been met a long time ago.