We Need Universal Voter Registration


Observing Turmoil

Why is it that our government has no problem finding us when it needs to? If you owe taxes, have failed to pay a fine, or even need to renew your vehicle registration, receiving a notice from The State is as certain as death and taxes themselves!

Our government is comprehensive on most things but when it comes to registering voters, it leaves the task to most any third-party.

Even though the troubled economy is a colossus towering over the election, some other issues are popping up in the news. A recent controversy is how the group ACORN has been registering voters. Some are accusing the non-profit group of voter fraud.

ACORN has many programs that are oriented to help low and moderate income people work together. It makes sense that the group registers voters: It doesn’t matter how much you work to help people empower themselves, if they’re not engaged in the civic process, they’re bound to stay on the margins.

There is an ACORN program that hires canvassers to approach people and ask them to fill out state issued voter registration cards. Out of the many hundreds of thousands of legitimate registrations collected, unfortunately, a few of the ACORN hires might not have acted in good faith. It’s been reported canvassers had submitted fake or duplicate registrations to pad their hours.

Bogus registration is serious and ACORN has been responding. And the response from Republicans has been strong too. They’re screaming bloody voter fraud - even though the bad registrations have been discovered weeks before the actual election!

This is the presidential campaign story of the moment. There’s a lot to delve into and I’m not going to fully rehash it. What I’d like to do is point out a remedy for these kinds of voter registration issues.

We need universal voter registration. With universal registration, the state automatically registers voters. Citizens can opt-out of the system if they wish.

I was copied on an e-mail from Jason Osgood, the Democratic party candidate for Washington Secretary of State and he put the ACORN voter registration affair in a solution oriented context:

“Pay people to gather signatures and this is what happens. The same thing happens with paid signature gatherers for initiatives. The recurring fainting spells over this issue is exhausting, distracting, and disingenuous. The solution is Universal Voter Registration. Just like every other Western democracy.”

The state could have an official, orderly process where it would register voters. Washington State already seeks to engage youth by mailing voter registration forms to people for their 18th birthday. Why not send out a card congratulating them as new voters who have been automatically registered? Why not pre-register high school seniors?

If a person wishes to forfeit their right to vote only to avoid jury duty, they could opt-out of the system.

The ACORN flap is a distraction. Considering the turmoil the world’s finances are in, do we need to get into a stink over what some dishonest canvassers have already got busted for? No we don’t - especially when the state could be automatically registering people in the first place.

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