Something is still wrong in America when a democracy based on voting puts up multiple road blocks to people being able to vote. Republicans for many years have made strong efforts to suppress voter turnout and to disenfranchise voters as part of their election strategy.
It’s time for some changes to fulfill the promise of voting rights and make access easier and increase citizen participation in voting. As the New York Times notes in an article “Push to Expand Early Balloting and Voter Rolls in US” the time is ripe for needed action in this area.
“The single most important thing that Congress can do right now is create universal voter registration, which would mean that all eligible voters are automatically registered,” said Rosemary E. Rodriguez, the chairwoman of the federal Election Assistance Commission, which oversees voting. “We also saw incredible success with early voting, and requiring states to adopt it would help as well.”
Ms. Rodriguez said universal registration would reduce the dependence on third-party groups like Acorn to sign up people and would remove the impetus for much of the pre-election litigation over who should be allowed to register.”
Senator Hilliary Rodham Clinton is mentioned as working on legislation to overhaul how voters register. Clinton is quoted as saying
“A system of automatic registration, in which the government bears more of the responsibility for assembling accurate and secure lists of eligible voters, is a necessary reform,” ….. “All eligible Americans should be able to cast their ballot without barriers, and the registration problems we saw on Tuesday and during the weeks that preceded Election Day make clear that the system needs improvement.”
The Clinton plan
“would require states to expand the voter registration databases that have already been created so that they include all eligible voters. To do this, states would draw information from tax records, driver’s license lists and social service agencies. The plan would also require states to update registrations whenever voters filed an address change with the Postal Service or other government agency, so the 14 percent or more of voters who move every year do not fall off the rolls. “
On the issue of early voting the article notes that
“Congress is already discussing the adoption of early voting nationwide. It now exists in 32 states in various forms.
A bill to do so was drafted last year by Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, and its co-sponsors included Senator Barack Obama, Democrat of Illinois. The bill was tabled after receiving little support from Congressional Republicans but is likely to have a better chance next year when Democrats hold expanded majorities on Capitol Hill and Mr. Obama is president.
Early voting proved extraordinarily successful in providing people with more options to cast their ballot and in easing the strain of turnout on Election Day. It gave voters the chance to clarify their eligibility before Election Day, and it gave election officials more time to test and understand new machines and rules. ”
Both reforms are needed to fulfill the promise of American voting rights. Registration needs to be easier and be open to automatic updates when people move rather than requiring re-registration. Voting needs to be open to pre-election day voting.
In Washington State all but 2 counties (King and Pierce)vote by mail. But registration ceases however a month before the election. In person registration is possible up to 2 weeks before the election at county elections offices. But the state still should allow same day registration, allowing voters to change addresses or register to vote up to and including Election Day.
Voting needs to be made easier and more accessible. Reforms like this will help America keep its promise to its citizens that this is their county and that the government will make it a priority to ensure that people are not denied access to voting because of partisan politics or special interest influence.