President Obama has a long agenda for his State of the Union address, but it is important that he not forget the most fundamental democratic reform of all: repairing a broken election system that caused hundreds of thousands of people to stand in line for hours to vote last year. It is time to make good on his election-night promise. Those seeking political power by making voting more inconvenient will resist reforms, but a better system would actually be good for both parties and, more important, the country.Long lines are not the inevitable result of big turnouts in elections. They are the result of neglect, often deliberate, of an antiquated patchwork of registration systems that make it far too hard to get on the rolls. They are the result of states that won’t spend enough money for an adequate supply of voting machines, particularly in crowded cities and minority precincts. And they are the result of refusals to expand early voting programs, one of the best and easiest ways to increase participation.
The disparate effects of these policies were clear last fall. Blacks and Hispanics waited nearly twice as long to vote as whites, according to a study conducted at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Lines were longer in cities than in rural and suburban areas and tended to be longer in the South than in the North. The longest lines were in Florida, where Republicans strategically cut back on early voting in hopes of reducing the Democratic turnout. More than 200,000 people in the state were forced to give up without voting.
States generally play the principal role in setting election standards, but the Constitution explicitly gives Congress the right to step in at any time and remake the rules for electing its members. Given the generally mediocre job the states have done in modernizing their voting systems, Mr. Obama should demand federal legislation that makes it easier to register and get access to a ballot.
Full Article: Voting Should Be Easy – Modernize Registration – NYTimes.com.