Over the past few weeks, prominent editorial boards, public officials, and others have expressed support for modernizing our voter registration system, calling it “the way to go,” “a priority” for the national agenda, and “a far better model” than our current system.
The proposal, which would relieve voters of the undue burdens of our current registration system and allow election officials to automatically register eligible voters using data already on other government lists, has earned support from members of both political parties. In an op-ed published in the Washington Post and syndicated in a variety of local newspapers, Robert Bauer and Trevor Potter, General Counsels for the Obama and McCain campaigns, respectively, drew on their experience from the campaigns to detail the flaws in our current paper-based registration system and to highlight the importance of “bringing our voter registration system into the 21st century.”
Other election law experts have joined Bauer and Potter in calling for lawmakers to act now to modernize the voter registration system. In an op-ed in the Indianapolis Star, John Tanner, former Department of Justice Voting Section Chief under President Bush, advocated for replacing our current system that burdens both election officials and voters with automatic voter registration.
Drawing upon research conducted by the Brennan Center, newspapers from across the country have echoed this call.
Citing low voter registration rates, the Brennan Center’s findings that the U.S. is one of the few major democracies that place the full onus of registration on the voter, and the confusion generated by last-minute registration efforts, a Roll Call editorial called for Congress to act to modernize our voter registration system.
The New York Times agreed, writing that Congress should “follow the lead of nations that are far more serious than the United States about getting eligible voters on the rolls,” and the Kentucky Courier-Journal echoed this sentiment, writing that we should look to countries where the government takes a more active role in registering voters and where “voting is treated not as a privilege but as an inalienable right.”
Similarly, the Baltimore Sun wrote that the modern voter registration techniques used in Canada provide “a far better model” for Americans than our current system, and a Kansas City Star editorial said that “the public needs to make sure” that Congress addresses the voter registration system, using statewide voter registration databases to automatically and permanently register every eligible voter.
This outpouring of support contributes to a drumbeat in favor of modernizing voter registration that has been building since last November’s election.
The Boston Globe, El Diario, and the Christian Science Monitor all editorialized in favor of the proposal, and in an April editorial, the New York Times posited that government-initiated registration should be viewed as the solution to the shortcomings of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993.
Robin Carnahan, the Democratic Secretary of State of Missouri, and Trey Grayson, the Republican Secretary of State of Kentucky, voiced early bipartisan support for voter registration modernization in an op-ed in Roll Call, writing that “simplifying and automating the [voter registration] process could help save time and money, and, most importantly, protect voters.”
Voices from the Brennan Center have also been broadcast in numerous outlets. Adam Skaggs has an op-ed about the benefits of voter registration modernization to military voters in US News and World Report, Wendy Weiser and Margaret Chen have an op-ed in Foreign Policy and a piece in the Huffington Post detailing how the United States’ track record on voter registration compares with other democracies, and Brennan Center Executive Director Michael Waldman has editorialized in favor of voter registration modernization in the TPM Café.
Even given the diversity of voices writing about our voter registration system, there is an extraordinary amount of consensus. From Kansas to Kentucky to Washington to New York, the message is clear: Our current voter registration system is ailing and we need to fix it. Voter registration modernization is the way forward.