In America, who gets to be a voter?
Well, thanks to the 15th, 19th, and 26th amendments, every US citizen who is 18 years old on or before Election Day can cast a ballot, but you also have to meet your state’s residency requirements. You also need to register to vote by your state’s voter registration deadline.
Let’s talk about that part – the “YOU need to register” part.
The United States is one of only a few democratic countries that puts the entire burden of registering to vote on individual citizens.
The problem there is that getting registered and staying registered isn’t that straightforward because there is no national standard for a registration process: every state has different rules.
Every state has different rules.
Deadlines for registration range from 30 days out from an election to being able to register on Election day. Some states insist on government-issued ID numbers and others accept utility or bank statements as proof of identity. Some states you can register online – like Wisconsin – some you have to do it in person.
On top of that, even if you think you’re registered, you may not be. Due to unprocessed registrations, inaccurate purges of names from the voter rolls, or just plain human error, because the entire registration system relies on overworked and underpaid humans: your municipal clerks.
But it doesn’t have to be this complicated or expensive. We could create a national system for automatic voter registration for all eligible voters.
You know how a lot of apps in our phones have default settings? Like how videos on Twitter or Instagram start automatically without having to click?
Registering to vote could be like that, the default.
Rather than you having to opt in, you would have the choice to opt out. This could increase turnout, save money, and improve security and accuracy of the registration process. It’s also favored by over 60% of Americans.
And as much fun as it is navigating underfunded government websites only to never find what you’re looking for, we could ensure that every state’s system is modern enough to update your registration fully online.
We could also guarantee that no matter what state you live in, you can register on Election day or during early voting.
And finally, we could limit voter roll purges, so once you’re registered you stay registered.
Call me crazy, but in a time when a robot named Alexa can turn my lights off, check my credit card balance, and provide me with a daily list of personalized online sales, it makes me think that it can’t be that hard for us to come up with something more efficient and less expensive to make sure every eligible voter actually gets to be a voter.
“Alexa, register me to vote.”
It’d be nice, right?