President Trump’s Commission on Election Integrity has ignited a fierce debate about whether rampant voter fraud exists in this country as well as the extent of the federal government’s role in administering elections and maintaining voting rolls. Despite the tremendous push-back thus far against the Commission, this remains a golden opportunity to vastly improve elections in America. As scholars and practitioners of politics, we believe that the top priority for the Commission should be to make our system of administering elections and registering voters fairer and more efficient. The time has come for universal voter registration for every American who turns 18, with this linked directly to our existing Social Security numbers. With this approach, voter registration would also become portable as people move across precinct, municipal, county, and state lines.
Universal, portable registration will eliminate the possibility that a voter could be registered in multiple jurisdictions while also modernizing registration systems which tend to vary in method between states. Under this proposal, conservatives who believe we have a voter fraud problem can declare victory as no voter will be capable of registering in multiple locales while liberals will herald universal registration as a significant victory for fairness and equality. Additionally, voters will have peace of mind knowing that they will not be purged from the voter rolls either by accident or design.
We frequently find that voters are unaware of the fact that state, county, and local governmental entities are responsible for running elections and managing voter rolls in the United States. Despite there being essentially no evidence of in-person voter fraud in the United States, the way we currently handle voter registration does lead to the possibility that many voters are legally registered to cast ballots in multiple states or counties. Although there is limited cooperation between some states on this issue, the current patchwork system does create the possibility that individuals could vote twice, although this rarely — if ever — occurs.