Is Voting Reform On The Horizon?

It looks like the battle over voter registration didn’t end with the election.

Of course, Republican-driven fears of rampant voter fraud perpetrated by ACORN proved unfounded. (So, we should note, did Democratic fears of an election stolen through massive purges of valid voters — though that was thanks partly to the vigilance of voting-rights groups who brought lawsuits in some states in the weeks before the election.)

But, reports the Los Angeles Times, advocates of election reform still think there’s a whole lot of room for improvement. They’re talking up the idea of “universal registration,” which would have the government take the initiative on voter registration, as is done in other major democracies.

The specific proposals for a universal system differ, but they all aim to address the fact that nearly 1 in 4 American adults is not on the rolls. Most would do things like ensuring that when voters move, states would update their rolls, and some would automatically add teens to the rolls when they turn 18, and to add people .

Perhaps most far-reaching is a proposal to have Congress create a national voter registration database modeled on the Social Security database. But other plans would put registration in the hands of the states.

One benefit of universal registration is that it would take groups like ACORN — which was criticized, mainly by Republicans, for submitting large numbers of bogus registration forms, wasting time and resources for election officials — out of the voter registration equation.

And that would prevent the GOP from using ACORN as a boogeyman for fears of systematic voter fraud — as the party tried to do this year — thereby making it harder to justify efforts at voter suppression.

According to the Brennan Center for Justice, a leading voting-rights group, Hillary Clinton has said she plans to introduce legislation for a federal version of the system, and officials in a handful of states have also expressed interest in passing similar state laws.

It’s too soon to know whether the bitter fights over ACORN and voter suppression that we saw this year are a thing of the past. But it’s encouraging that people are still paying attention to the problem.

Masthead Masthead
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