By Alexander Spielman & Dev Goswami | Our Voice Contributors
The United States has a very complicated way of registering voters. You have to re-register for voting each time you move to a different address instead of having everything moved over automatically. This is very inconvenient for most people. For example, in our home state of New Jersey we have no form of online registration for new voters or for re-registering voters. We can only register by mailing or delivering our information to the County Commissioner of Registration or the Superintendent of Elections of the county we live in. Alternatively we can be registered to vote or change our address at the DMV. This process could be so much easier! By taking a lesson from other nations on voting we can both improve our election system and increase voter turnout.
The first nation we can focus on is South Korea. Here they have a form of Automatic Registration whereby everyone nineteen years of age or older is automatically registered to vote and put on the voter's list for every election and referendum.
Another model worth examining is Iceland where they do something very curious. They don't register in the traditional sense. Instead of having a voting age at which to register people, they alternatively have every Icelander registered at birth. No paper work. No stress. If you weren’t born in Iceland, but you have become a citizen, you simply provide relevant data when you reach 18 years of age.
Voting in the USA is unnecessarily convoluted. There is no good reason not to fix what is broken and overly bureaucratic. This confusion leads to a lower voter turnout and leaves the system less democratic and more fractured. In 2016 South Korea and Iceland both had voter turnouts of 75%+ versus the USA which was at 55.4%, according to CNN.
The process is just getting worse. For the November 2016 elections, 17 states passed voter restriction laws and 11 of those states require their constituents to show valid IDs. They included swing states such as Wisconsin, Texas, and North Carolina, which all have a high proportion of African American and Latino voters.
The process of getting a state ID can be very difficult. States like Texas require birth certificate names to match current IDs. If a voter’s mother changed her surname after remarrying and it affected them as a child, they must find their birth certificate which may not have been scanned into a digital database and sometimes can’t be found. Married women and widows who change their surnames also face unnecessary, and often costly hurdles in these states.
Numerous studies have found that voters who are most affected by these stringent voter ID policies are women, African Americans, Latinos, the elderly, and people with low incomes. In an increasingly diverse nation these groups not having easy access to the voting booth is shameful and undemocratic.
If these voter ID laws are to remain on the books, we must allow all voters easy access to state issued IDs. Those who advocate for voter ID laws claim massive amounts of voter fraud occurred without them. These claims have been proven false many times through multiple investigative studies conducted by liberal, moderate, and conservative think tanks.
These stringent state ID policies don’t offer easy methods of compliance. They create more bureaucratic red tape that strips many citizens of our most basic right; the right to vote. The current system is failing us! Let’s take back our Democracy!