Fixing The Process

Fixing The Process

Rick Hasen on the various charges of voter registration fraud and voter suppression:

“The solution is to take the job of voter registration for federal elections out of the hands of third parties (and out of the hands of the counties and states) and give it to the federal government. The Constitution grants Congress wide authority over congressional elections. The next president should propose legislation to have the Census Bureau, when it conducts the 2010 census, also register all eligible voters who wish to be registered for future federal elections. High-school seniors could be signed up as well so that they would be registered to vote on their 18th birthday. When people submit change-of-address cards to the post office, election officials would also change their registration information.

This change would eliminate most voter registration fraud. Government employees would not have an incentive to pad registration lists with additional people in order to keep their jobs. The system would also eliminate the need for matches between state databases, a problem that has proved so troublesome because of the bad quality of the data. The federal government could assign each person a unique voter-identification number, which would remain the same regardless of where the voter moves. The unique ID would prevent people from voting in two jurisdictions, such as snowbirds who might be tempted to vote in Florida and New York. States would not have to use the system for their state and local elections, but most would choose to do so because of the cost savings.

There’s something in this for both Democrats and Republicans. Democrats talk about wanting to expand the franchise, and there’s no better way to do it than the way most mature democracies do it: by having the government register voters. For Republicans serious about ballot integrity, this should be a winner as well. No more ACORN registration drives, and no more concerns about Democratic secretaries of state not aggressively matching voters enough to motor vehicle databases.

Finally, universal voter registration is good for the country, not only because it will make it easier for those who wish to vote to do so, but because it should end controversy over ballot integrity that threatens to undermine the legitimacy of our election process. If President McCain or Obama makes this a priority, we can have the system ready in time for the president’s re-election.”

I think this is a wonderful idea. It addresses everyone’s concerns in the best possible way, and makes it easier for people to vote in the process. It would also prevent these fights over voter lists, which, as Hasen says, undermine people’s confidence in our electoral process.

I never thought that we’d be here, eight years after 2000, with a voting system that remains broken. Maybe if we get a President whose own legitimacy is not on the line, we will finally fix it.