On Tuesday, millions of Americans stood in long lines at crowded polling stations to exercise their right to vote. It was heartening to see that so many Americans care so deeply about their democracy that they were willing to endure considerable inconvenience to have their say. Although most were ultimately able to cast a ballot, the long lines were a disgrace. As President Obama said that night, “We have to fix that.” And we have to do so now. Long lines were the most visible manifestation of the problems with our voting system; unfortunately, those problems run deeper. I spent Election Day helping to field calls from voters across the country on behalf of the Election Protection Coalition, which runs the nation’s largest non-partisan voter protection hotline. I have also been monitoring the election process and its problems throughout the lead-up to November 6th. These are the key takeaways.
By far the biggest problem with voting in America is our ramshackle voter registration system. Year after year, millions of eligible Americans show up at the polls on Election Day only to find that they cannot vote because their names are missing from the voter rolls. According to a Harvard/MIT study, in 2008, an estimated 2 to 3 million eligible Americans tried to vote but could not because of voter registration problems, and millions more were thwarted by registration deadlines and residency requirements.
This problem was acutely apparent on Tuesday. Longtime voters all across the country, including in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Connecticut, and Colorado, called Election Protection from the polls because their names were not on the rolls. New voters who registered before the election also reported being missing from the rolls in states like Virginia, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and elsewhere. Whether this was because of unfair purges of the voter rolls, deliberate subterfuge, or just plain error, the effects are the same: delays and long lines at the polls, and eligible voters being left out. We have to fix that.
To do so, we need to modernize our voter registration system. The good news is that the technology exists to put in place a more accurate system where the government makes sure that all eligible citizens who want to be registered are actually signed up, that voters stay registered when they move, and that citizens can still vote if there are mistakes on the rolls. All we need is the political will. Bringing our voter registration system into the 21st Century will not only help voters, it will also save millions of dollars and reduce the opportunities for fraud and abuse. There is simply no excuse not to do it.
Full Article: We Have to Fix That | Brennan Center for Justice.