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GREG HARTON: Extended warranties in election?

by Greg Harton | February 28, 2021 at 1:00 a.m.

Nothing against the sellers of extended warranties, but I wouldn't want to be one.

You know what I'm talking about: Most retailers -- particularly of electronic devices -- create and promote "products" full of promises designed to put the buyer at ease about future and unknowable calamities. These are basically insurance programs sold on the consumers' fears that something might go wrong with the device they're sinking hundreds if not thousands of dollars into.

In another setting, these transactions might be known as Vegas-style gambling. As the consumer puts the money on the table, he's betting something bad will happen during the extended warranty period. The seller of the product and the extra warranty coverage is betting it won't, and thus the seller pockets a bigger profit.

When a store clerk, who's probably making minimum wage, asks if I'd like the extended warranty, I just politely decline. If it's a salesman who is really working hard to "upsell" me into the warranty, I from time to time have a question. "If you're selling so hard on this extra protection, are you telling me you're selling an inferior product you expect to fail within the next 2-3 years?"

Of course not, they answer. But wouldn't it be great if something went wrong that you'd be covered, they ask.

"Does this product have a history of going wrong within a reasonable life span?" I've asked.

"No, no," they've replied as they glance around wondering if there's another sucker ... er ... customer who needs help. "Some people just like the confidence of knowing they're covered."

Fear sells.

•••

The problem I have with a lot of the protestations over voter fraud is the people proposing solutions do not often have solid, real-world examples of the problem they're trying to solve. Lawmakers, emboldened by a steady diet of "stop the steal" fabrications by a former president, speak as though they're saving the Republic from large-scale skulduggery in the electoral system.

They're offering extended warranties for a product -- the American electoral system -- that has long been the envy of people yearning to live in democratic (small "d") environs. If elections were automobiles, the United States would have a shelf full of J.D. Power awards. That's not to say they're perfect, but they're not the hooptie Dave Ramsey suggests people drive until they get out of debt.

With the Arkansas Legislature in session, the election-related bills are flying. Last week, the Legislature sent the governor a bill to tighten up the requirement that voters present specific forms of identification at the time of voting before they're allowed to cast ballots. The bill eliminates the ability of registered voters who show up without proper ID to cast provisional ballots along with their signatures, which would then be checked by county clerks against the original voter registration documents.

Advocates for such changes say they don't understand why people don't want "absolute security and integrity" in voting, as one senator suggested. Absolute? So what's next, finger-printing? DNA swabs? No, because reasonable people understand that's not necessary to achieving a quality election free of results-changing fraud.

When you keep adding requirement after requirement for voting without evidence that you're fixing something that's broken, it's understandable that people might suspect you have other motives, such as making it unnecessarily harder for some people to vote.

Advocates for these unnecessary changes to what's been shown time and time again is a reliable system of voting are selling warranties based on fear, not on facts.

But as anyone who goes to buy a big-screen television these days knows, fear sells.


Greg Harton is editorial page editor for the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Contact him by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @NWAGreg.

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