The Root: Abolish Voter Registration! (Make It Automatic for the People)

Today for The Root I counter that whole “two thirds of eligible voters did not vote in the last election” stuff with a solution to improve turnout. Get rid of voter registration altogether and make registration automatic for all citizens once they turn 18. Instead of hoping people get involved in the process voluntarily, let’s fast track everyone to the front of the line. After all “voter registration” is more about voter suppression than getting the vote out … SO SAYS HISTORY!

The vast majority of democracies do not require the extra step of voter registration. Even the United States initially didn’t do it. Like everything that keeps you from voting, voter registration was created as a disenfranchising tool meant to allay fears of noncitizens voting in the 1800s because of large waves of immigrants moving to America. According to FairVote, the unintended consequence of voter registration was that it wound up throwing many poor people off the voting rolls.

Earlier this month, I wrote on The Root about how nonvoters—who tend to be younger, browner and less financially stable—don’t vote even though they’re the people who need politicians to listen to them the most. And if you compare what’s going on today with what went down in the 1800s, nothing seems to have changed. The same individuals are still facing the same impediments to voting, all brought on under the guise of keeping noncitizens from voting, when these actions really seem designed more to make sure that the “right” citizens vote—namely, the ones who have always had the right to vote.

No one would pass a voting law that disproportionately affected white men who work on Wall Street. But because of fears of the “other” coming to influence American elections, we’ve eroded the voting rights of American citizens. In our country, voting isn’t precious—it’s a prize delivered to those who already have the largest piece of the pie. It’s about preserving a system that has never fully represented the views of this country.

Read the full story at The Root.

4 thoughts on “The Root: Abolish Voter Registration! (Make It Automatic for the People)

  1. Is the voter registration process really the problem, though? It seems to me that the fundamental issue here is voter apathy — exacerbated by recent efforts by governments of red states to discourage “certain people” from the polls by increasing the effort and cost of the voting process.

    In other words, some people don’t go to the polls because they’ve convinced themselves that voting doesn’t accomplish anything useful, and/or because they feel that Election Day is just too much of a hassle. I don’t see how automatic registration addresses those factors.

    Sometimes I think the only fix for this issue is to adopt the Australian solution: mandatory voting. Stop fixating on guaranteeing the right to vote. Work on taking away the right to NOT vote.

    “Vote or Else” may not be the most inspiring slogan, but our current levels of voter turnout aren’t exactly inspiring, either.

    1. I started off writing that we should have compulsory voting until I thought of what this country would do with fines for not voting. It would, in fact, become a tax on the poor much like when poor people can’t pay traffic violations and the fines turn into arrest warrants and those turn into poor people in prison for nonviolent offenses. I don’t think I could take it if local municipalities used enforcing the vote as a way to squeeze more money out of broke people, then send them to for-profit prisons.

      Otherwise, I agree with you!

    2. Interesting. Would you like to see a fine if voters do not vote? Man, my generation (although they did come out for Obama in 08) doesn’t take it as seriously as previous generations. I remember watching the news and they interviewed a college student if he was going to vote in the most recent elections and he said something like I just don’t want to.

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