A Better Alternative To Election Day Registration?

Update: 07/24/2009:  New York Times Editorial endorses  <read>

Bolder action is needed to impose a higher standard on the states. Senator Charles Schumer, the Democrat of New York who is chairman of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, is at work on a national voter registration modernization bill. To be effective, it should follow the lead of nations that are far more serious than the United States about getting eligible voters on the rolls — and have the registration rates to prove it.


An alternative is available that would eclipse Election Day Registration (EDR), while fixing our  inaccurate voter registration databases and save government expenses.

A National Journal Article, Looking Abroad For Answers On Voter Registration, summarizes the case and points to recent reports covering the possibilities of making the government responsible that all voters are registered. <read>

As lawmakers on Capitol Hill mull the best way to overhaul the voter registration system, advocacy groups that endorse fixes are pointing overseas for answers.

Unlike the United States, which puts the onus for registering entirely on the voter, many Western democracies put government officials in charge of adding voters to the rolls, according to a recent study by New York University School of Law’s Brennan Center for Justice. These include Australia, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Peru and Sweden.

It seems that there are advantages that both progressives and conservatives would find in this alternaive:

A recent PIRG report makes the case that the nation’s current, paper-based registration system is not only inefficient and error-riddled, but burdens election administrators with excessive costs. The survey of 100 counties, conducted by PIRG’s Education Fund, found that election officials spent more than $33 million in the 2008 election on simply populating and correcting the voter rolls.

Voting rights advocates argue that registration snafus were the No. 1 problem plaguing last year’s election. Certainly registration controversies dominated the headlines, with progressive activists complaining that eligible voters were blocked from registering and voting, and conservatives arguing that ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, was fraudulently registering ineligible voters.

Putting registration in the hands of government officials would solve both problems, said Wendy Weiser, director of the Brennan Center’s voting rights and elections project. The group’s recent analysis of voter registration systems around the world points to data sharing — capturing voter information from government records used for other purposes — as the most promising model internationally.


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