President Barack Obama has said that the reason Texas doesn’t allow online voter registration isn’t because of security issues, but because state elected officials don’t want more people involved in the election process. “It is much easier to order pizza or a trip than it is for you to exercise the single most important task in a Democracy and that is for you to select who is going to represent you in government,” the president said at SXSW. “It’s done because the folks who are currently governing the good state of Texas aren’t interested in having more people participate.” It’s true. There’s simply no good reason, in this day and age, for us not to be utilizing web technology to make voting accessible to as many eligible Americans as possible – especially in a state like Texas, where voter turnout rate is abysmal. So far, Texas has the second lowest voter turnout during the presidential primary season, with just 21.5% of Texas residents 18 years or older showing up at the polls. And that’s our best turnout yet! (Louisiana has the worst turnout rate this season so far, with just 18% voter participation.)
Texas governor Greg Abbott rejected Obama’s criticism, saying that laws like the infamous Texas voter ID law, which requires voters to show a valid state ID at the polls and was found by federal courts to be unconstitutional, are necessary to remain vigilant against voter fraud. Never mind that, in Texas, there have only been four cases of in-person voter fraud out of the last 72m votes. That makes in-person voter fraud in Texas less common than getting struck by lightning here.
With voter turnout in the US trailing most developed nations, why have 36 states enacted some form of voter ID law instead of laws that make voting more accessible? Not only should we be registering and voting online, but as Obama mentioned, we should be redesigning our voting systems to make it easier for people to learn about the candidates and issues on which they are voting. A 21st century ballot should not only have the name of the candidate on it, but their photo and a link to their voting record. Maybe even a link to a third-party site like Politifact that verifies whether the things candidates say on the campaign trail are true.