Make voting better: Make it easy
If you haven’t registered to vote in the Aug. 7 primaries, it is too late for you to participate. The deadline for registering to vote was July 8.
It probably is not a coincidence that a coalition of progressive groups submitted 430,000 petition signatures that same Monday to eliminate early voter registration deadlines and other impediments to voting. The petitions need about 316,000 signatures to make it onto the November ballot, but don’t be surprised if the flagrantly partisan state board of canvassers does its worst to block the initiative.
Promote the Vote’s ballot initiative would allow straight-ticket voting, allow any-reason absentee voting, same-day registration and automatic voter registration. The group’s backers include the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, the League of Women Voters and the NAACP’s state and Detroit branches.
“Democracy is most effective when the most possible people participate,” ACLU of Michigan Executive Director Kary Moss said when the petitions were submitted. “Voting should be easier, it should be accessible, and it should be something that everybody can do.”
Not everyone agrees. Republican-controlled statehouses across the country, including Michigan’s, have worked hard in recent years to make access to the voting booth more difficult. Opponents of easier voting have spread the mythology that making participation in our democracy less complicated also invites voter fraud. The same groups using the fraud myth to justify voter suppression are also the ones that have been unable to find any abuses in two years of searching.
Voter rights shouldn’t be a partisan issue. Politicians and voters of every persuasion should want every eligible citizen actively participating in the process. Republicans, though, tend to think that voter suppression benefits their candidates and harms their Democratic opponents. That may be true in other places, but data in Michigan suggests things such as prohibiting straight-ticket voting costs both parties votes.
The tactics only result in lower turnout, greater cynicism and more complaints the system doesn’t work. Like gerrymandering, it makes the game of politics more important than the work of governing. It is why we have candidates who don’t identify with the people whose votes they seek, elected officials who ignore the needs of constituents, and partisans who don’t play well with others.
Soon after they are elected, though, they will lament the latest pathetically low voter turnout. And, while snickering behind their hands, they will vow to do something about it.
With Promote the Vote’s initiative on the November ballot, voters will be able to do something about it themselves.
— Times Herald (Port Huron)