Can congressional Democrats and Republicans put aside partisan politics to seriously address the major issues facing our country? With the debt crisis ever looming and judicial and executive nominees languishing, there is plenty of opportunity for partisan rancor. But there is one area where politics should be — and, surprisingly, may be able to be — tossed aside: voting.
In 2011 and 2012, we saw a wave of states pass restrictive laws that would have made it harder for millions of eligible Americans to vote. Citizens and voting advocates mounted a massive effort to push back and ensure everyone could have their say at the ballot box. In state after state, courtroom after courtroom, the most serious efforts to restrict the vote were rolled back and voters won. Now, there are signs of a sea change: Politicians are pulling back from efforts to rig the system before they even get signed into law.
Already, plans to change Electoral College vote rules appear to be dead in Florida, Ohio and Virginia, where Republican governors and bipartisan groups of legislators opposed the idea. (Unfortunately, this is not the case in Pennsylvania.) And Florida Gov. Rick Scott has said he wants to expand polling place access and extend his state’s early voting days and hours — after he supported a law to cut them in 2011.
… The first step is modernizing voter registration. Most of the country still relies on a 19th century paper-based system that is inefficient and rife with errors. The Pew Center on the States found that one if four eligible citizens is not on the rolls, and one in eight registration records has serious errors. When poll workers have to rummage through reams of paper to find names that have been misspelled or included at the wrong address, long lines are exacerbated. In 2008, up to 3 million citizens tried to vote but could not due to registration problems. Up to one-third of unregistered citizens were registered at one point and fell off the rolls when they moved.