The United States’ leading prosecutor on civil rights issues wants the country to join the majority of other democratic nations when it comes to voting, by making the government – instead of the voter – responsible for registering voters. U.S. Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez, chief of the Department of Justice’s civil rights division, is one among a variety of activists and federal officials and lawmakers who say long lines and other problems encountered by voters throughout the nation this fall need to resolved by the federal government if not the states.
The modernization of voter registration is one of several proposals Perez made in a speech last week at a George Washington Law Review symposium attended by election law and voting experts from around the country.
“Under our current system, many voters must follow needlessly complex and varied voter registration rules,” he said. “And every election season, state and local officials have to manually process a crush of new applications – most of them handwritten – leaving the system riddled with errors, and, too often, creating chaos at the polls. That’s exactly what we saw at a number of polling places on Election Day.”
According to a Pew Center on the States study published in February, voter registration databases are riddled with errors. More than 1.8 million deceased individuals were listed as voters, nearly 2.8 million were registered in more than one state, and more than 12 million records had incorrect addresses, the study found. That study also found that only one in four eligible Americans are registered to vote.