In “Let the People Vote” (editorial, June 5), you are right to applaud Hillary Rodham Clinton in making voting reform a top priority. However, I firmly believe that this issue is not about Republican versus Democrat. I believe that all Americans want the same thing: a fraud-free election in which as many citizens vote as possible. It is a disgrace that turnout in America ranks 138th out of 172 democracies around the world.
It is common sense that if you want to fill voting booths: 1) you don’t hold elections on a single working day when many people with two jobs and single working parents can’t vote; and 2) you make it as easy as possible for all citizens to register, and today that means electronically.
I won’t accept the notion that any of the candidates, Democrat or Republican, who hold themselves out as capable of leading our nation think otherwise. For example, Senator Rand Paul has publicly asked, “Why don’t we be the party that’s for people voting, for voting rights?” and has introduced a bill to restore voting rights for nonviolent felons in federal elections.
So I call upon all candidates for president to follow in the steps of Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Paul by speaking up on ways to increase voter turnout.
In my view, the best way to ameliorate this malign dynamic is to find ways to enlarge the electorate in primaries and general elections — to move our politics to where persuadable voters in the middle have more impact. If I could do one thing to counter our dysfunction, it would be to adopt a version of the Australian system of mandatory attendance at the polls.
If there were mandatory voting in America, there’s a good chance that the ensuing reduction in extremist discourse would lead to genuine legislative progress. These days, valuable Congressional time is spent on frivolous or narrow issues (flag burning, same-sex marriage) that are intended only to spur on the party bases and ideological extremes. Consequently, important, complicated issues (pension and health-care reform) get short shrift.There’s no question that compulsory voting would be a tough sell. Congress would have to pass a law and the states would have to enforce it. Surveys on the subject regularly show substantial majorities opposed to the idea. Americans don’t like compulsory anything — we value the freedom not to vote.
But going to the polls doesn’t mean that you have to vote for a particular candidate. About three percent of Australians, for example, mark X on the ballot, the equivalent of “none of the above.”
It’s been a big week for Why Tuesday? and the entire election reform movement. Saturday witnessed the bipartisan commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the events of “Bloody Sunday” when over 600 non-violent protesters were attacked by Alabama state troopers as they attempted to march from Selma to Montgomery for voting rights.
It was a reminder of how far we have come but also how far we have to go, as President Obama said on Saturday:
Of course, our democracy is not the task of Congress alone, or the courts alone, or the President alone. If every new voter suppression law was struck down today, we’d still have one of the lowest voting rates among free peoples. Fifty years ago, registering to vote here in Selma and much of the South meant guessing the number of jellybeans in a jar or bubbles on a bar of soap. It meant risking your dignity, and sometimes, your life. What is our excuse today for not voting? How do we so casually discard the right for which so many fought? How do we so fully give away our power, our voice, in shaping America’s future?
While the responsibility of citizenship calls us all to the polls, our laws are making it harder and harder to participate. New restrictive voter identification requirements disproportionately hurt minorities and the elderly. And while technology has made just about everything easier — from Uber to ATM’s — our elections are stuck in the past. As we’ve said over and over again: why on earth are we still voting on Tuesdays? No. Good. Reason.
I am dedicating myself to the next generation of voting rights — to fixing a problem that plagues black America and white America, that afflicts older Americans and younger Americans, that is as rampant in Blue America as in Red America — the precious right to vote.
Martin offers three immediate solutions — guaranteeing online registration, moving election day to the weekend (or expanding the voting period), and tasking the Social Security Administration to offer free identification cards as a stopgap in restrictive states. Have other ideas? Join the conversation on Facebook.
Lost in the partisan debates that circle DC, is a conversation about the most fundamental right in the world’s most famous democracy: our right to vote. It’s encouraging to see so much attention brought to it this week, and it’s on all of us to keep the debate going.
And in that spirit, Why Tuesday? is featured in a Selma promo that aired on Pivot TV recently. Watch it now!
A staggering 69% of people who didn’t vote in the 2014 midterm elections, which had historically low turnout, didn’t vote because they were stuck at school or work, or were too busy, out of town, sick or forgot, according to Pew via Wonkblog.