On PBS, Lehrer Demands Federal Government As Chief Election Monitor

On the PBS NewsHour with Jim Lehrer tonight, they honed in on allegations of voter irregularities and election-stealing, and Lehrer began suggesting a need for the federal government to rule over a regime of nationalized election standards. In the show’s second installment of the panel of liberal Mark Shields and guest conservative Ramesh Ponnuru, the veteran liberal clearly won the battle of the clock: Shields took about twice as much air time to lay out his answers as Ponnuru the newcomer did. Here’s how Lehrer pushed nationalized election systems:

Lehrer: "Ramesh, do you think there should be national standards for all elections, and take it out of the hands of local precinct workers and county judges and people like that?"

Ponnuru seemed surprised at the question: "Well, I guess I don’t have any firm convictions on the issue. I would just say it’s not obvious to me that the federal government would do a better job of it than state and local governments do."

Lehrer suggested that answer was based on airy ideology: "But is that a philosophical belief of yours, or do you have, do you base that on something?"

Ponnuru: "Well, what I based it on is simply not being sure why we would expect the federal government to be any better. I’m not saying the federal government is always incompetent, I’m just saying –"

Lehrer interrupted, with what I would say was a dismissive tone which signaled Ponnuru to stop: "Uh, okay. I hear you. Okay."

He turned to Shields: "What do you think?"

Shields gave the liberal answer about nationalizing elections: "I think we should. I think it ought to be a national experience. We have a very mobile population. You know, we don’t need the kind of silly little idiosyncrasies from one jurisdiction to another. People are moving all the time. Families are scattered across the country. We do want to encourage people to vote, rather than discourage them to vote. That is one of the principles of democracy. And – "

Lehrer: "So the ID rules at the polling place, all of that, you’re saying they should be the same no matter where you vote. Whatever state –"

Shields: "I think it’s a national debate. I think it’s a national value. It’s a national value to encourage people to vote. That they inform people, informed citizens, The standards ought to be fair and universal."

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