The other day, Hillary Clinton came out for universal, automatic voter registration at age 18. That woman will likely do a lot of things I hate, but if she keeps pounding on this drum, she'll do us all a service.
Registration has got to go. There is no reason for this outmoded hurdle, except to make it harder for some eligible people to vote. None.
Oregon is showing the way. The state has recently implemented a New Motor Voter Act:
Sure, people need to take some responsibility to keep their records up to date, but the post office and the DMV should capture most such moves. (Amazon, Google and your internet provider also probably know too ...) Once you are in the system, you are in the system. As I always say on this topic: the NSA knows where you are. If we can't thwart the spooks (and we probably can't), why shouldn't we use that government knowledge to ensure everyone has the chance to vote?
Commentary on Clinton's speech has raised up some hard facts. Jamelle Bouie spelled out the racial implications of restrictions Republicans have passed wherever they could recently.
Law school professor (and former Obama administration official) Cass Sunstein makes points so obvious it is easy to miss them:
Political scientist Jonathan Bernstein emphasizes that, if we want to increase voter participation -- and we should if we believe in equality and democracy -- doing away with the registration obstacle is likely to be the most effective improvement we can make. Apparently researchers are now doubting the claims for "convenience voting" -- vote by mail, unlimited absentee voting, early voting etc. The people attracted by these tweaks to the system are mostly just changing when they cast their ballots, not whether they bother.
However the same research shows that automatic, universal registration does add present non-voters to the mix. Our current system works to limit who votes on a class basis. Bernstein explains in his slightly convoluted way:
It is within our technological and political capacity to do better.