There's an amnesia that afflicts most of us as soon as Election Day ends. We not only want to forget all the ads and vitriol, we block out the many problems people have with voting. Remember when President Obama said in his 2012 victory speech, "We have to do something about that"? I do, but I didn't do anything to change it, either.
The fact that our system is decentralized, based not just on state rules but even county procedures, makes it hard to misuse on a national level, and that's good. But some centralized rules are needed to make sure everyone has equal access. As it is, there's way too much room for biased implementation.
I've written a bit before on my ideal voting system, but here it is again, with some revisions and additions:
- Standardize the following election methods across the country.
- Make voter registration easy: at the DMV, online, and as preregistration at school a year or two before voting age. Or, better yet, make it automatic. (That's if we can't somehow move to mandatory voting.)
- No ID required to vote or register. People affirm they are citizens and have the right to vote at the address they supply under penalty of a hefty fine and prison sentence.
- Allow same-day registration when voting, whether on election day or at early voting. Require either an ID with address, utility bill with the person's name and address, or a registered voter from that precinct who can vouch for the person's identity and address. (This is how it's done in Minnesota.)
- Allow early in-person voting for several weeks, including Sundays, with enough locations to make it accessible. Most likely, base the number of locations on a percentage of Election Day locations. Distribute the early voting locations spatially in parallel to Election Day locations (i.e., not all downtown). Include curbside drop-off of ballots for people with handicapped parking tags.
- Standardize the number of registered voters per Election Day precinct so that wait times are as close to equal as possible. Determine a fair ratio of poll workers and booths/stations to number of registered voters per polling place and make it consistent across the country.
- Maintain bipartisan representation among the poll workers.
- Increase the security of mail-in ballots so they cannot be as easily manipulated as they are now.
- Require all balloting systems to include a paper trail (nothing all-electronic).
- Don’t move polling places without good reason between elections. Only change them if the location is no longer available or is found to be not accessible.
- Make sure all polling places are physically accessible, including resting spots along the entrance and exit paths. (The idea that people with disabilities are all in wheelchairs needs is wrong. )
- Accept ballots cast outside of precinct if the voter has waited at an incorrect precinct.
- Allow felons to vote as soon as they are released from prison, even if they're still on probation or parole (or, ideally, allow them to vote while incarcerated, as is done in Maine and Vermont).
- Count incarcerated people at their last address, rather than their prison address, for legislative apportionment.
For the presidential election, I would decrease the length of the process to under a year. Even January is too early to start, but I could live with that.
And all of these ideas don't even mention campaign finance reform. I would ban private money in elections (whether from the candidates' own funds directly or third parties) and move to completely public financing.
What are you thoughts on voting?