6 steps that states and Congress can take to make voting easier
Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 8 because Congress set up a day that would most accommodate a bunch of (white, male) farmers’ working, traveling, and religious practices in 1845. The following steps would help address a serious problem: The US has relatively low voter turnout for a wealthy nation — much of the population isn’t having its voice heard.
- •Make Election Day a holidayShort of actually changing Election Day, the US could make Election Day a national holiday so it doesn’t conflict with work responsibilities. The research is mixed on whether this would actually help, but it’s worth considering.
- •Allow or expand early votingMost states already allow no-excuse early voting, but some limit it to one or two weeks, weekdays, and, worse, 9-to-5 office hours. But a few states have proven that it’s possible to offer much more expansive voting windows — Minnesota, for example, allows early voting 46 days before Election Day. Others, like Maine and Iowa, allow voting as soon as ballots are available — which can be as early as up to 45 days before Election Day.
- •Move some or all voting to mailCO, OR, and WA only vote by mail, setting up systems that let people pick up or print out ballots and mail them in to their local voting office. There are some concerns to only allowing mail-in voting, including ballots getting lost in the mail and potentially making it easier for family members or peers to coerce a person into voting a certain way. But mail-in voting is one way states can expand voting time on the cheap, since they no longer need to hire staff to supervise polling booths.
- •Automatically register people to vote, or register everyoneTo this day, all but one state (North Dakota) require people to register to vote. This just adds another hurdle to voting. States could take steps to automatically register people to vote, as Oregon did. Or maybe they could do away with registration, like North Dakota has — allowing people to instead prove on Election Day that they live in the state with a state-issued ID or other identification documents.
- •Relax strict voter ID lawsMore and more states have adopted strict laws that limit what IDs someone needs to vote. For example, they might allow a government-issued photo ID as proof to vote, but ban a student ID or bank statement. This is supposedly to combat voter fraud, but in-person voter fraud is very rare anyway — between 2000 and 2014, there were only 35 credible allegations of voter fraud, while more than 1 billion ballots were cast. So maybe these laws can be relaxed to allow more forms of ID or not require one.
- •Online votingThis would be the most convenient form of voting possible for anyone with a computer, tablet, or phone connected to the internet. But there are enormous security risks: At a time when hackers are managing to break into all sorts of places — and even shutting down the internet for huge swaths of the country — it’s extremely risky.
- •Some of the policy changes listed above, particularly the expansion of voting days, cost more money.It’s going to be up to lawmakers and their constituents in different jurisdictions to decide what the right balance of costs and access to voting is. But whatever approach one takes, it’s clear that there is a lot that could be done to make voting easier. And we can start by reconsidering when Election Day happens. Read the full article to learn more: http://bit.ly/2eN8pEi