Advocates Identify Voter Registration System as Nation's Biggest Election Problem

Despite reports of voter registration barriers, voter intimidation, and non-compliance with voting rights law in recent elections, it appears that state legislatures and Congress are not actively focusing on the real issues in election administration. Considering the current economic state, almost the only attention that election reform is getting is through messy, partisan fueled debates to require photo voter ID on the state level--a fight that, just last week, quietly brought Utah to the list of eight other states that go beyond the Help America Vote Act in voter ID requirements. In recent Congressional hearings regarding voter registration and other election issues experienced in 2008, a number of groups have expressed their concerns with the current voting system and its impact on voters.

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America Can Do a Better Job at Registering Voters

Cross-Posted at Project Vote's Voting Matter's Blog

Weekly Voting Rights News Update

by Erin Ferns

Despite the 2008 election showing that the minority and low-income voting bloc is quickly growing, the effort to keep voters from actually casting a ballot persists through the introduction and passage of restrictive election reforms, wrote syndicated columnist and former state representative, William A. Collins in a recent opinion piece. "As we all know, becoming and remaining a voter is not just a theoretical exercise. At least in this country that right is hotly contested in hard-fought political combat. He who controls the voter lists often controls the election."

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Universal Voter Registration on a national scale

The Progressive States Network's focus this week is on universal voter registration.  This is an idea whose time is long overdue.  The kind of attention and pitched battles we fight over voter registration is nothing short of ridiculous, if you stop to think about it.  Basically, the purpose of voter registration is to allow the state to build a database of eligible voters, and to locate those voters in cities and precincts.  This is fundamentally a technical challenge, and really, not a very difficult one.  The fact that voter registration is a difficult and mammoth task is, in the age of sophisticated data matching algorithms and large scale database systems, a national embarrassment.

PSN, whose focus is on state policy reforms, rightly suggests a number of incremental steps towards making voter registration easier and more widespread.  These steps include aggressively mining databases to track citizens as they move about the state, making voter registration available at more places besides the DMV, etc.

That is a good start, but it seems to me that Congress could one-up the states, without too much effort.  Simply by matching records from the social security database with the list of tax returns each election year, the federal government could produce a "pretty good" list of all 18-year-old citizens, and the addresses for each of those people.  There would be some rate of error - as in the case of young adults who live in one place when they file their taxes in April, and have moved by the time elections come around in November - but I think it would be a reasonably good approximation.  Why not make that list the default voter roll, and then allow citizens who moved, or who didn't file taxes for some reason, to add themselves to the rolls after the fact?  To make things a little smoother, citizens could be given a web-based and phone-based interface to the database, to allow them to check their own registration status, indicate an address change, or perhaps even to find their polling place or request an absentee ballot by mail.

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Election Reform: Universal Registration and Early Voting Take Lead in Voting Rights Discussions

Cross-posted at Project Vote's blog, Voting Matters

Weekly Voting Rights News Update

By Erin Ferns

Following one of the most momentous elections in the nation's history, officials and advocates across the country are already turning their attention to the future of American democracy. After a grueling battle over voter registration, voter roll maintenance, and ballot access for the ever growing electorate, leaders and advocates are evaluating what worked this year and considering major administrative and legislative overhauls before coming elections.

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