5 Ways To Make Voting Easier

Even if the GOP hadn’t done their best to make voting a difficult process for as many people as possible, the 2012 election showed that this country is in desperate need of a civic infrastructure overhaul. Long lines, confusing ballots and questionable machinery all threaten to grind our participatory democracy to a halt.

The good news is, there are some relatively easy reforms Congress could get to work on right now that would streamline and modernize voting.

1. Reform voter registration

In places like Ohio, Florida and Virginia voters waited in line hours before casting a ballot. In some jurisdictions voters would get to the front of the line only to find out they were not on voter rolls. According to the Brennan Center, the technology and infrastructure already exists to help states modernize voter registration. They can do this by improving online registration and making registration automatic in some instances. Congress is ready to help pay for the upgrade. The Voter Empowerment Act, sponsored by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D.N.Y) and Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga) would upgrade voter registration standards nationwide and expand same-day voter registration.

2. Protect election funding at the state level

Other problems at the polls came up when locations ran out of ballots or were short-staffed thanks to repeated cuts to local and government aid. Election judges, many of whom are elderly, were simply unprepared for the volume of voters and a failure to upkeep voting equipment caused problems.

In 2002 Congress passed the Help America Vote Act which helped states replace outdated voting machines. It’s time to renew that funding so states don’t have to foot the bills on their own.

3. Staff the Election Assistance Commission

In 2002, Congress set up the Election Assistance Commission, a nonpartisan federal commission created to aid local jurisdictions with things like certifying electronic voting machines or coming up with contingency plans in case of a disaster. But so far, the panel has no commissioners sitting on it, because Republicans in the Senate have blocked the nominees. Having a functioning commission might have helped states such as New York and New Jersey that found themselves scrambling to set up voting alternatives after Hurricane Sandy.

4. Expand early voting and make election day a federal holiday

Allowing people to vote early can help alleviate the pressure on Election Day and if hourly wage earners did not have to worry about losing pay while they wait to vote, those that do decide to vote on election day can avoid the before-and-after work rushes. Congress could set standards here to make sure the details of early voting are not left to partisans with interests in manipulating the system in either direction.

5. Create a FEMA for problem voting districts

Places like Florida and Ohio simply can’t seem to run an election smoothly. The Voting Rights Act addresses the racial components to these problems, but Congress could set up a national nonpartisan agency to administer elections, impose rules and standards for ballots, set registration guidelines and hash out the rules on polling times. And if all else fails and a state or a district still can’t pull it together, that agency could declare voting rights disaster areas and those elections could be monitored, much like we already do under the Voting Rights Act.

Sadly it is unlikely that the modern-day Republican party would get behind these reforms, despite the fact they they would help guarantee the party remains relevant in future elections. As we’ve seen in this last election those who want to suppress the vote depend on an electoral system that is disjointed and chaotic. Creating national standards and uniform procedures makes organized voter suppression much more difficult and would finally show Congress is serious about supporting participatory democracy.


Related Stories:

International Observers Sent To Prevent Voter Suppression In U.S. Elections

Think Voter ID Is Bad? Meet the Poll Watchers

Supreme Court Protects Early Voting In Ohio


Photo from Muffet via flickr.


John Hablinski
John Hablinski5 years ago

I have little, if any, faith in the accuracy of my vote being correctly counted by the system being used by my county on the Coastal Bend of Texas. Heretofore we used a paper ballot counted by a scanner and should there be a question the paper ballot was there. After the fiasco of the 2000 General Election which resulted in the right-winged Supreme Court stopping the recount in Florida and naming Bush president, we got a new system. Alas it is the Hart Intercivic System which has the reputation of being easily tampered with and there is no paper ballot backup. And if that was not bad enough we learned Tagg Romney owned an interest in the Hart Company. What is wrong with this picture?
There is no national election protocol and this is just stupid. We must change this before the 2014 election and we could if it weren’t for the Republican dominated House. And I promise you the GOP will resist such legislation. They have no desire to see a secure election system in place. The only reason the Republican Party thinks there is voter fraud in this nation is because they cheat every time they can.

LMj Sunshine
James Merit5 years ago

Thank you.

LMj Sunshine
James Merit5 years ago

Thank you.

Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill5 years ago

Voting problem should be tackled now instead of right before an election.

Will Rogers
Will Rogers5 years ago

Have a voting week, rather than a voting day, what's the rush? Why the rush? Power doesn't change until nearly three months later. Campaigning also lasts for months, then Poof! It's all over in one day. It's like when someone's trying to sell you a 'Dud' ...they prompt you to make a decision in the shortest possible time...sales pressure! That's the term!
Also.. We could vote via lottery machines, via the post office or local shops, modernise it. It's only tradition you know? And sometimes traditions hold us back. It might have been the best way in 1912, but surely there's a better way now?

Will Rogers
Will Rogers5 years ago

So hold on!? They can find you when you need to pay taxes but can't find you when you need to vote? Easy! Link voting to social security. Link it to taxes! There are already systems in place where everyone is registered. ...This is what they usually do in civilised first world countries.
Wasn't it you lot who came up with the phrase? "No taxation without representation". And how many kinds of taxes do you have? Federal...State...Income taxes! Social security, sales taxes, fuel and tobacco and alcohol...but you don't have to give them your name for that... property taxes etc etc.
They know who you are, but what I wonder is...If they know who you are and probably where you are, then why do they make it so hard for you to vote? I smell a rat.

BMutiny TCorporationsAreE

John S. says "How come we never hear the problems that republicans have voting where Democrat's are in control?"
It's OBVIOUS, why.
Democrats DON'T try to keep Republicans from voting.
Democrats don't NEED to.
The ONLY way Rethuglicans CAN win, is by CHEATING. And by Voter Suppression. And by manipulating and hacking voting machines. And by throwing away ballots and Voter Registrations. In other words, ONLY win by CHEATING.
Democrats are a HUGE MAJORITY overall - especially in cities.
Rethugs are a DYING BREED. Thank goodness! Their policies belong in the Dark Ages.
Dems would win BY MUCH LARGER MAJORITIES, even, if Rethugs didn't consistently CHEAT.
THAT'S why you NEVER, absolutely NEVER, hear about Dems doing hanky-panky with the votes. They don't NEED to cheat, to win! Their policies BENEFIT people, don't take away from them. People KNOW this about Dems. They have more, much more CONFIDENCE in Dems.
And all the expensive, annoying paid-for propaganda in the world, doesn't change the voters' grasp of the FACTS!!!

Anne S.
Anne Sherwood5 years ago

We need a Constitutional Amendment to do away with Citizens United. Too many still in Congress (state as well as national) are in the pockets of those who pushed cash into the 'dark money' in our political campaigns. As a result, who will they represent? The wealthy and corporations or the people that elected them? This question should never have to be asked, but it will remain as long as Citizens United is alive.

More investigations of the electronic voting machines (some already done by MIT, CalTech, Princeton Univ. and the Argon National Labs) should be continued and publicized. I urge you to go to www.blackboxvoting.org for information compiled by them for the last 7 years. We simply cannot have machines that can scan or print out a vote but programed to change the vote on the internal program that will alter the elections. The internal vote is the one counted to determine elections. Paper ballots are put aside and never seen unless a recount is called for. In most states, no election or state official has legal authority to examine the programs or the machines, which come preloaded with the program from the machine supplier, and have no legal authority to check voting machine programs for security, accuracy or if it can be manipulated in any way. Slot machines programs, in contrast, are all on file in each state's gaming commission. Each program can be checked for accuracy and security at any time against slot machines in use. Slot machine programs should not be more

Judie B.
Judie B5 years ago

I vote absentee, but I would certainly support on-line voting, especially since it's getting harder and harder to trust that the post office will deliver the mail in a timely manner. In our area, if the post office is short-staffed, they bring back entire routes and return the mail items with "not deliverable as addressed" stickers. The post office has actually admitted to this practice!

Lovely Devaya
Lovely Devaya5 years ago

Totally agree with Kenny W. Is this a first world country we are talking about?!!!