Political Maneuver or Not, I Think Hillary’s Call for Automatic,Universal Voting Registration Is a Great Idea

As you may know, I am a staunch advocate of voting: I think voting rights should be expansive, that as a nation we should encourage and facilitate voting as much as possible, and that voting is not only a right, it’s responsibility.

When we don’t vote, we do an injustice to ourselves and our fellow citizens by failing to uphold our democracy, we act as pawns of those who try to limit access to voting (in recent years, these efforts have been especially aimed at minorities, the poor, the elderly, and the young, go figure), and we betray those whose labor and personal sacrifices made it possible for us to vote in the first place. Next time you feel lazy or tempted by Russell-Brand-style ‘principled’ slacktivism, think of Frederick Douglas, Carrie Chapman Catt, and Miguel Trujillo, and imagine how lame you’d sound if you had to stand before them and explain why you’re sitting out on voting day.

Hillary Clinton’s call for universal, automatic voter registration addresses both the rights and the responsibility aspects of voting, and outlines some concrete steps we can take to support both. Her proposal, to automatically enroll every citizen as a voter when they turn 18 unless they opt out, and to extend the time window for voting, has many things going for it, and few against it:

– it reduces the chance of voter fraud because everyone will be enrolled; if anyone tries to vote more than once, or as an individual who doesn’t really exist, they’ll get caught by the system. While voter fraud is actually very rare nowadays, many people just feel better about elections that are more likely to be as close to 100% free of voter fraud as possible. In recent years, voter fraud been more of a right-wing issue than anything, so honest Republicans should support the idea. And if they object to universal voting registration as being somehow too invasive or imperious, well…

– it’s no more or less invasive than any other ID laws (passports, state ID, etc). Universal voter registration could be done by the federal government, but if this idea is too scary, it could become a national requirement for states take on the responsibility. If each state can be responsible for making sure every adult has an ID, it’s not too much of a stretch that they could tie this into voter rolls.- it makes voting more accessible to working people. Honest Republicans should like this as much as anyone from any other political party, for obvious reasons: it would help the hardworking, taxpaying, . As it is, it’s often very hard for working people to get to the polls on the one day they’re open, often only during work hours and/or the time they drop their kids off and pick them up from school; this is especially true for people working in healthcare, in emergency services, in low-paying jobs where people can ill afford even an hour off, and so on. Universal voter registration would make sure that busy working people are already signed up to vote in case they can grab some time to run down to the polls, and will make it that much easier to create an electronic voting system that will allow everyone to vote when and if they can. (I still think the fact that voting days are not holidays is a shame and an embarrassment to a nation that touts itself as greatest democracy in the world.)

– and voting, generally, makes for a smarter, more just society, since it not only helps ensure that the rights of every citizen are respected, but that information about the circumstances, beliefs, and interests of the entire citizenry, necessary for crafting wise and fair policy, is revealed as fully as possible. The more people who can more easily vote, then, the better. And not just the working people: it should include the poor, the elderly, the disabled, the formerly incarcerated… every single citizen whose fate, like it or not, is intertwined with our own.

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Sources and inspiration:

Keith, Tamara. ‘Returning to Roots, Clinton Lays Out Proposal to Expand Voting‘. It’s All Politics, NPR. June 4, 2015.

Levitt, Justin. ‘The Truth About Voter Fraud.‘ Brennan Center for Justice website, November 9, 2007.

Merica, Dan and Eric Bradner. ‘Clinton calls out GOP opponents by name on voting rights’, CNN website, June 5, 2015 Clinton calls out GOP opponents by name on voting rights