The Swarm

Mix it up with The Bee's editorial board.

November 3, 2008
Lesson: Make voter registration easier

With all the hassles we've seen in trying to get new voters registered properly, it's time (again) to consider a better system: automatic voter registration.  Other countries do it.  We can, too.

This would fix all kinds of problems: having third party non-profits or others out there collecting registration forms, incomplete voter rolls, inaccurate voter rolls or county offices being overwhelmed during election years.

The virtue of automatic voter registration is, as the New America Foundation has written:

"It's the best way to bring together conservatives concerned about fraud in elections and liberals concerned about low voter registration. We need a coherent system that ensures all of us can vote, but none of us can vote more than once."

Some have suggested automatic registration for anybody with a driver's license or tax record, but that still leaves some folks out.  Others have suggested automatic registration of all high school students, but that, too, leaves some people out.

A better solution is creating a unique number for each voter and maintaining a national database so each voter only has to be registered once in their lifetime, and can move from state-to-state or county-to-county without having to re-register.

How this might work: Every U.S. citizen at birth or after naturalization (if an immigrant) would get a voter registration number that would be activated when the voter turns 18-years-old. County governments then would simply have to download the file for their county, plus signature samples, right before each election and print out sign-in sheets for each precinct.

Anyway, such as system would eliminate the problem of duplicate or fictitious registrations (like Mickey Mouse) and ensure that people can't vote in more than one place.  Sure, details would have to be worked out.  But automatic voter registration sure beats the rigmarole we go through every election cycle to register folks and attempt to get accurate rolls.

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About The Swarm

The Swarm is written by members of The Sacramento Bee's editorial board. They meet daily and are separate from the newsroom. Views included here are those of individual writers, and do not necessarily reflect those of a majority of the board or the positions expressed in The Bee's editorials.

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