April 18, 2013

The Other Side of the Argument

In the wake of voter registration fiascoes that occurred during the 2012 election and the push towards voter identification laws, many have argued for universal automatic voter registration. A new paper published by the Heritage Foundation makes the case against mandatory universal registration. The abstract reads, 
There is no question that the U.S. voter registration system could be improved. However, the answer to America’s voter registration problems is not federal mandates or federal interference in election administration. Indeed, the federal government has almost no experience administering elections; states administer elections in the laboratories of democracy. As a result of this exercise in federalism, states are implementing numerous improvements to the voter registration system—and they are doing it at less cost to our treasury, our Constitution, and the integrity of our elections than mandatory universal registration. 
A federal fix is a solution in search of a problem, 
Lack of registration is not the reason people do not vote. Ideological organizations such as FairVote and the Brennan Center for Justice are proposing that states automatically register all individuals to vote using existing government databases. Such proposals are based on the false premise that large numbers of Americans do not vote “for no other reason than they are not registered to vote.” Yet after every federal election, the U.S. Census Bureau publishes reports on the levels of registration and voting, including surveys of individuals who do not vote, that disprove the claims that the major reason individuals do not vote is a lack of registration opportunities.
Furthermore there are numerous concerns over practicality, 
-Use existing state and federal government databases to automatically (and permanently) register all citizens to vote.
-Create an overriding policy to ensure that voters left off the rolls can register and vote on Election Day.
-Require state or local governments to send every residence a notice of those registered at that location; residents could then make changes as needed and return the updated form.
-Provide every U.S. citizen upon birth or naturalization a voter registration number similar to a Social Security number, to be used in all elections and activated when a voter turns 18