A New Approach To Voter Registration?

How about a simple, reliable system similar to the rest of the World?

The United States is one of the few industrialized democracies that place the onus of registration on the voter. In other democracies, the government facilitates voting by taking upon itself the responsibility to build voter rolls of all eligible citizens. Even in the United States, voter-initiated registration did not exist until the late nineteenth century. It was instituted then in many states with the intention of suppressing unpopular voters, especially former slaves and new European immigrants, and it continues to disenfranchise many Americans to this day.

The Brennan Center for Justice has produced a “Policy Summary”, Universal Voter Registration, <Summary> <.pdf>

Too often, when it comes to our election system, policymaking has devolved into partisan wrangling or become bogged down in arcane technicalities.

Today we have the opportunity for a major breakthrough for effective democracy. The 2008 election saw a record number of new voters. New election technology and the implementation of a recent federal law in the states make it possible to overcome the challenges with our voter registration system—the single greatest cause of voting prob lems in the United States. We can now truly modernize the voter registration process by upgrading to a system of universal voter registration—a system where all eligible citizens are able to vote because the government has taken the steps to make it possible for them to be on the voter rolls, permanently. Citizens must take responsibility to vote, but government should do its part by clearing away obstacles to their full participation. The current voter registration system—which is governed by a dizzying array of rules and is susceptible to error and manipulation—is the largest source of such obstacles…

The next Congress can substantially speed up the process by:

  • Establishing a national mandate for universal voter registration within each state;
  • Providing federal funds for states taking steps toward universal voter registration;
  • Requiring “permanent voter registration” systems, so that once voters are registered, they will stay on the rolls when they move; and
  • Requiring fail-safe procedures, so that eligible voters whose names do not appear on the voter rolls or whose information is not up to date can correct the rolls and vote on the same day.

An attractive idea which claims the magical combination of increasing participation in democracy, fairness,and  integrity, while saving  everyone money, reducing frustration for officials, and the public.  We will put this in our “Conditionally For” column, because we would have to see the details of any proposal and see the comments and evaluation of computer scientists, security experts, election officials, and activists.

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One response to “A New Approach To Voter Registration?”

  1. George

    This is an important step that should be taken immediately. Imagine, no more false arguments over voter fraud, no more Acorn and a huge reduction in voter suppression. This really is a no brainer. Having said that, do I think it will happen? Based on the way this country handles the rest of the election process, I doubt it.

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