There is a right to vote. There is no right to sloth.
There is no right to sit on your hands all year and then have a ballot automatically appear in your mailbox. There is no right to mark your ballot at your leisure up to two weeks before the election and then hand it off to someone else to turn in to election officials.
There is no right to wait until the afternoon of election day and then saunter into any random precinct, register to vote, then immediately cast a ballot without bothering to bring a photo identification. And there is no right to commit armed robbery, distribute drugs, or steal millions from hedge funds, and then the moment you step outside of prison demand society allow you a say in governance equal to that of law-abiding citizens.
Yet in pushing for passage of the so-called Freedom to Vote Act, Democrats and the left-leaning press framed the bill as protecting the “right to vote.” When the Senate failed to eliminate the filibuster last week—needed to pass the voting bill—liberals bemoaned it as an attack on voting rights and democracy itself.
Every member of the U.S. Senate holds a “duty to safeguard our democracy and secure the freedom to vote. Yet tonight, Senators voted to preserve an arcane Senate rule rather than secure that fundamental freedom,” Vice President Kamala Harris wrote in a statement condemning the Senate’s failure to eliminate the filibuster. That failure, Harris claimed, means that it will be more difficult for Americans to vote because of purported “anti-voter laws” pushed by Republican legislatures.
“I am profoundly disappointed that the United States Senate has failed to stand up for our democracy,” President Biden said in a separate statement his office issued the same evening. The Freedom to Vote Act, the president claimed, was imperative to protect against supposed “unprecedented effort[s] to suppress the sacred right to vote and subvert the American bedrock of free and fair elections” by Republican state legislatures.
These statements followed comments Biden made in his erratic Wednesday afternoon press conference when he said whether the 2022 elections are legitimate depends on passage of the Freedom to Vote Act. “The increase and the prospect of being illegitimate is in direct proportion to us not being able to get these — these reforms passed,” Biden claimed.
Although the Biden administration quickly walked back the president’s suggestion that, absent passage of the Freedom to Vote Act, the 2022 election would be illegitimate, they simultaneously reaffirmed that sentiment by proclaiming our democracy itself at risk unless the bill become law.
In pushing this narrative, the Biden administration continued with the marketing sleight of hand it has deployed in pushing the bill, that there is an “unfettered” right to vote. We saw this the morning after the Freedom to Vote Act failed to advance in the Senate, with Harris appearing on “The Today Show” and claiming it was a “blatant erosion of our democracy” and an attack “on the right of all Americans who are eligible to vote to have access to the ballot unfettered.”
There is no such thing, however, as an “unfettered” right to vote. That right is “fettered” by many things, as the Constitution assumed it would be, in providing state legislatures the power to prescribe “the times, places, and manner” of holding federal elections.
While the right to vote is fundamental, the right to vote is not the right to vote in the simplest, easiest way possible, without the need for any effort or exertion. Rather, as the Supreme Court reiterated last year, a voting system must be “equally open,” and provide “equal opportunity to cast a ballot,” but it must tolerate “the usual burdens of voting.”
Registering ahead of time to vote, providing photo identification confirming the person showing up to vote is the person registered to vote, traveling to a precinct, and personally casting a ballot are but the usual burdens of voting—nothing more and nothing less. Yet the misbranded Freedom to Vote Act, if passed, would usurp state election codes that establish such minimal requirements.
Not only is this an affront to federalism, passage of the so-called Freedom to Vote Act would represent the true attack on the legitimacy of elections because it would gut state election code provisions that protect against non-citizens voting, the undue influence of voters, and voter fraud—which is precisely why Democrats want to make the bill law.