July 25, 2018

Ways to improve voting

Reclaim the American Dream - Thanks to its automatic motor voter registration law, Oregon hit voter records in the 2016 election – not only the highest voter turnout in the state’s history, but also the highest percentage (70.4%) of voters among the voting-age citizens eligible to register and vote.

“We make voting convenient with vote by mail and by sending a voters’ guide to every household in the state,” says Oregon Secretary of State Jeanne Atkins. “We make registration simple, with both automatic registration and online registration. These pioneering policies are good for civic engagement and voter participation.”

Oregon’s idea – an automatic path from the DMV to the voting booth.

...Between Jan. 1, 2016, when the program began, and the Nov. 8 election that year, the Oregon motor voter system automatically registered 226,094 voters, boosting the state’s voter rolls by more than ten percent in just 11 months.

....California Followed hard on Oregon’s heels, putting its huge, computerized Motor Voter system into full operation in 2017. Its sponsor, Secretary of State Alex Padilla, predicts “the largest voter registration drive in the nation’s history” by making registration easier for the estimated 6.6 million Californians who are eligible to vote but not not registered. “There will be a huge influx of new voters, and that’s good for our democracy,” Padilla asserts. “We want to serve as a contrast to what we see happening in other states, where they are making it more difficult to register or actually cast a ballot. I think that’s flat out un-American, and we can show a different, better way with the automatic registration system.”

....While a score of states were making it tougher to vote through stricter voter ID laws and fewer voting days, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia passed Motor Voter laws to make voting easier. In Connecticut, the Secretary of State and the DMV announced plans to implement a streamlined motor voter system in 2018. New Jersey followed suit with an expanded system for automatic voter registration when residents interacted with several major state agencies or got state driver’s licenses and ID cards. Utah adopted a system of reminding residents that they can register when they obtain or renew a state driver’s license, but that leaves the initiative up to individual Utahans.

But the tens of millions of unregistered voters, vastly more than most people imagine, represent a gaping hole in American democracy. In 2014, a U.S. Census Bureau survey found that at least 41.1 million U.S. citizens of voting age were not registered to vote and that another 37 million might not be registered since they did not answer the survey question about registration. In sum, the agency said, it could only confirm that 142 million of 219 million Americans eligible to vote, were actually registered.

One major obstacle is that we as a people move a lot and voter registration does not automatically follow us, even for moves within the same state. “Many Americans falsely believe that their registration automatically updates when they move,” says Barry Burden, a political scientist and director of the Elections Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “Residency requirements in many states effectively disenfranchise recent movers. It is not surprising that young people and other groups that are more transient are less likely to register and vote.”

“Many other countries automatically register voters,” observes political science professor Jim Moore of Pacific University in Oregon. “Their concept of democracy is not that it is a privilege, but that it is a right that all citizens share.” By contrast, the United States has no constitutionally guaranteed right to vote. “In some European countries, citizens’ voter registrations will automatically move if the citizen does,” Moore explains. “No need to re-register. Democrats Push for Automatic Registration Law

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