Voter suppression is real and comes in many forms. Here’s how to restore democracy:
1.) Inform voters in advance if and when their polling place has been changed.
Local election departments often wait until voters arrive at the polls to inform them of changes. Although Rhode Island officials advised concerned voters to visit their local town or city hall and cast an emergency mail ballot through last Monday — after announcing the closure of 1 in 3 polling places.
2.) Make sure machines are calibrated and thoroughly tested.
Voting machines with older computer operating systems may have screen calibration issues that cause votes to be misread. In 2012, a Pennsyvania voting machine was recalibrated and returned to service after one voter captured it switching a vote for President Barack Obama to Mitt Romney.
3.) Cut costs by having congressional elections on same day.
Granted, this would also require election administrators to plan for higher volume. If done right, early voting would speed up the process so that people do not have to wait in line for hours.
4.) Restore voting rights for all felons and allow prisoners to vote.
Last month, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe signed an executive order to restore the voting rights of 206,000 ex-felons. According to The Richmond Times-Dispatch:
The governor’s order applies to all violent and nonviolent felons who had finished their sentence and supervised release as of Friday, even those who have not applied for a restoration of rights. Previous Virginia governors have restored rights on an individual basis, but none has done it for an entire category of offenders with one pen stroke.
Currently, 10 states may abolish voting rights for felons permanently, while only two states allow prisoners to vote.
5.) Release raw vote totals in nominating contests like party caucuses.
Raw votes matter because they narrow the field for presidential candidates in early primaries and help debunk myths of candidates’ popularity among actual voters and not delgates. As Nate Silver, explained on New York Primary, late April 19:
Because we and everyone else get so laser-focused on the percentages, raw vote counts sometimes get forgotten about. But so far, there have been 1.2 million votes recorded from Democratic voters in New York, as compared with around 450,000 for Republicans. That gap may close some because New York City is over-reported relative to the rest of New York State. Still, while Trump is popular among Republicans in New York, he’s not that popular in the state overall, with Clinton having more than twice as many votes so far.
6.) Have nationwide same day registration.
Restrictive voter registration deadlines should be ended and every state should conform to the same rules New York’s 6-month voter registration deadline for the Presidential Primary is the worst in the US, while states that same day registration have the highest voter tunrouts. Currently, 11 states plus the District of Columbia offer same-day registration and three others (California, Hawaii and Vermont) have decided to implement the policy in upcoming elections.
7.) Have nationwide online voter registration.
19 states still do not offer online voter registration. Arizona was the first to implement online registration — in 2002.
8.) Modernize how purged voters are contacted.
According to the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, election officials can remove a registered voter if they haven’t voted in two federal cycles, which they generally notify voters of via post card.
9.) Make Election Day a holiday.
Election Day used to be a holiday — and voter turnout was much higher.
10.) Allow open primaries natiowide.
12 states have a stricly closed primary system, including New York. This means that in a primary election, voters can only vote for those candidates whose party affiliation matches their own. In New York State, this excluded nearly 3 million of out of 10.7 million active voters.
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