Nationalizing Voter Registration

This idea is getting a LOT of play in the lefty blogosphere, so I wanted to ask y’all.  Good idea or not?

The solution is to take the job of voter registration for federal elections out of the hands of third parties (and out of the hands of the counties and states) and give it to the federal government. The Constitution grants Congress wide authority over congressional elections. The next president should propose legislation to have the Census Bureau, when it conducts the 2010 census, also register all eligible voters who wish to be registered for future federal elections. High-school seniors could be signed up as well so that they would be registered to vote on their 18th birthday. When people submit change-of-address cards to the post office, election officials would also change their registration information.


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3 Comments on “Nationalizing Voter Registration”

  1. I think there’s some validity to the idea. I am a bit concerned about centralizing voter registration because of the bureaucracy involved. And this also takes agency out of a lot of community organizing. However, there are some benefits, such as a national system that could have voter registration more uniform across the country, and eliminate the different laws that vary state-by-state. Of course, since most elections are local, this format seems to have problems when local officials don’t have control of the registration data.

    I also like the change of address thing with the post office, but some people change their address for only a short time, or sometimes want to continue voting at their permanent address, not their temporary address. This becomes even more complicated.

    Decent idea to consider, but I am not sure if it’s the best route.

  2. Dennis Says:

    re: using the post office, what if it was just added to the form, and people had a choice whether to update their voter reg or not? Or if it was linked to the temp vs. permanent move checkbox?

    It does also raise the question of whether or not people should be forced to actually vote where they are at the time, even if it’s temporary. I can see both sides of that.

    re: community organizing, maybe it would push organizing beyond merely voting and into other, more long-term forms of organizing. At the least, wouldn’t it just allow organizers and activists to focus on turnout and education instead of registration? I’m really not seeing much of a downside here.

    I’d add – of course – making election day a national holiday AND providing vote-by-mail nationally. Even within the confines of democracy as it’s practiced in the US, both seem like good ideas.

  3. Yes, a national holiday is a fantastic idea, as is mail-in voting. I agree that this type of program could lead to actual transformative community organizing, rather than simple voter-registration drives. Good points.

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