Election Universe

The modernisation of the US voter registration system

The modernisation of the US voter registration system
October 06 2015, 21:01

September 22 was National Voter Registration Day in the United States, and what a better day to discuss the current registration system. One point of view adding value to the debate was the release of The Brennan Center for Justice new paper: Case for Voter Registration Modernization in 2015.

This Voter Registration Modernisation project is a comprehensive plan to automatically register every eligible American voter. The aim of the program is to establish a nationwide universal registration system that would automatically make every citizen an eligible voter when they turn 18, and that would ensure that people stay on the voter rolls when they move.

The research notes that this policy “could add up to 50 million eligible voters while saving money, increasing efficiency and accuracy, and curbing the potential for fraud,”. The system would require four components:

1. Automatic Registration: requiring states to adopt electronic systems and take responsibility for registering citizens so they are automatically added to the voter rolls when they interact with government agencies.

2.Portability: making sure that once citizens are signed up, they remain registered when they move within their states.

3.Online Access: allowing voters to register, check, and update their registration records through a secure and accessible online portal.

4.Election Day Safety Net: giving people the opportunity to register or update their information on the rolls at the polls (before and on Election Day).

The whole proposal to modernise the voter registry responds to problems found in the existing structure. “Still based largely on paper, the current system is plagued with errors, which create needless barriers to voting, frustration, and long lines at the polls. According to the Pew Center on States: one in four eligible citizens is not registered to vote, one in eight voter registrations in the United States is invalid or significantly inaccurate, and one in four voters wrongly believes their voter registration is automatically updated  when they change their address with the Postal Service,”cites the paper. One of the points the proposal states is that states can take steps to increase security in their voting systems. Therefore, since they are more accurate, electronic systems are less vulnerable to fraud and abuse.

The Brennan Center’s updated proposal comes as states across the country are taking steps to modernize voting and move toward universal registration. “Today, 29 states allow or will soon allow people to register to vote online, and 30 have made the voter registration process at agencies at least partially electronic. In 2015 alone, six state legislatures passed laws modernizing registration through electronically transferring information, allowing voters to register online, and giving people the opportunity to register to vote on Election Day. And three states — California, New Jersey, and Oregon — passed legislation to automatically register voters when they get or renew drivers’ licenses.”

However, the plan finally demands a single national standard, “a mandate to ensure that all eligible voters are registered no matter where they live. Congress should pass legislation to make that mandate a reality.”

Image by Scott Lynch via Flickr