Vot­ing for vot­ing

The midterms brought good news for democ­racy. Politi­cians should re­spond.

The Washington Post - - FREE FOR ALL -

TURNOUT SOARED in Tues­day’s elec­tions, with some 113 mil­lion Amer­i­cans vot­ing, by far the most of any midterm. That is un­de­ni­ably good news. On the other hand: About half of el­i­gi­ble vot­ers failed to cast bal­lots in one of the most con­se­quen­tial midterm elec­tions the coun­try has ever faced.

It should not be dif­fi­cult to vote, but in too many places it is — and in too many places Repub­li­cans are mak­ing it more dif­fi­cult. Tues­day’s re­sults un­der­lined the im­por­tance of mak­ing vot­ing eas­ier, not harder. More states should fol­low Cal­i­for­nia and Ore­gon in em­brac­ing au­to­matic voter regis­tra­tion, which adds res­i­dents to voter rolls when they get driver’s li­censes or other state ser­vices, un­less they opt out. Congress should de­clare Elec­tion Day a fed­eral hol­i­day. States should al­low more early vot­ing and keep polls open longer. And, yes, they must re­duce nev­erend­ing lines. Hours-long lines formed at vot­ing lo­ca­tions across the coun­try, once again, this Elec­tion Day. Ab­surd tech­ni­cal gl­itches, such as bat­ter­ies run­ning dry and a lack of power ca­bles, plagued vot­ing ma­chines in Ge­or­gia, In­di­ana and Michi­gan.

Yet many states are try­ing to make the process more mis­er­able, and for par­ti­san rea­sons. Ge­or­gia be­came this year the poster child for im­pos­ing un­nec­es­sary has­sles on vot­ers, as the state gov­ern­ment held up thou­sands of reg­is­tra­tions that did not ex­actly match records in other gov­ern­ment data­bases — even if the dis­crep­ancy was a miss­ing hy­phen. North Dakota’s voter-ID law made Elec­tion Day sub­stan­tially harder for its Na­tive Amer­i­can vot­ers, some of whom were turned away from polling places. Arkansas and North Carolina vot­ers ap­proved mea­sures to re­quire a photo ID to vote, sup­pos­edly to com­bat voter fraud, which is close to nonex­is­tent.

Yet there was good news, too. Florida vot­ers chose to en­fran­chise more than 1 mil­lion for­mer felons in the state, a breath­tak­ing ex­ten­sion of vot­ing rights that re­quired the sup­port of both Demo­cratic and Repub­li­can vot­ers to pass. Michi­gan vot­ers ap­proved an ini­tia­tive de­mand­ing non­par­ti­san re­dis­trict­ing, join­ing states such as Ari­zona and Cal­i­for­nia in strip­ping politi­cians of the abil­ity to choose their own vot­ers. Ne­vadans chose to in­sti­tute an au­to­matic regis­tra­tion sys­tem. And Kris Kobach, the pug­na­cious Kansas GOP gu­ber­na­to­rial can­di­date, lost. Mr. Kobach had at­tempted to re­quire proof of cit­i­zen­ship to reg­is­ter to vote, a bur­den­some rule that would have done lit­tle to en­sure vote in­tegrity but a lot to dis­cour­age more peo­ple from reg­is­ter­ing.

This mixed pic­ture sug­gests that, while the coun­try’s democ­racy has far to go to en­sure free and equal ac­cess to the bal­lot box, there is sub­stan­tial pub­lic in­ter­est in im­prov­ing the sys­tem. Politi­cians should re­spond.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.