Since the Florida election debacle in 2000 laid bare the way Americans cast and count votes, lawmakers and officials at federal, state, and local levels have made fitful progress toward building a modern and democratically inclusive election system. But the promise of a renewed democratic system has not been fully realized. Too often, when it comes to our election system, policymaking has devolved into partisan wrangling or become bogged down in arcane technicalities.
Today we have the opportunity for a major breakthrough for effective democracy. The 2008 election saw a record number of new voters. New election technology and the implementation of a recent federal law in the states make it possible to overcome the challenges with our voter registration system—the single greatest cause of voting prob lems in the United States. We can now truly modernize the voter registration process by upgrading to a system of universal voter registration—a system where all eligible citizens are able to vote because the government has taken the steps to make it possible for them to be on the voter rolls, permanently. Citizens must take responsibility to vote, but government should do its part by clearing away obstacles to their full participation. The current voter registration system—which is governed by a dizzying array of rules and is susceptible to error and manipulation—is the largest source of such obstacles.