In a speech at Texas Southern University, a largely African-American institution in Houston, where she was getting an award of some kind, Hillary Clinton, in the current pole position for the Democratic nomination for President called for universal voter registration. Simple as that, just like Selective Service and a million other big data intrusions, when someone turns 18-years old, bam, they are registered to vote.
As we’ve advocated here, there, and everywhere for years, there’s only one real reform that will cure all of the problems of voter registration and the mishmash and mayhem that states and local jurisdictions have made out of the process, and that’s automatic registration. I’m sure it’s too much to acknowledge the irony that we both claim to be a democracy in the USA, yet then seem to do everything possible to keep people from being able to register and from being able to vote. Oregon took the smaller step of registering people when they got their driver’s licenses and, whoops, added 300,000 voters.
Clinton also called for some action on that front from all reports of her remarks. She advocated a 20-day early voting period, including nights and weekends for goodness sakes. In those states where it’s allowed, 40% or more of the votes are coming in early. For good measure she even threw in some remarks about finally allowing former felons to vote after they had paid their debt to society, but I’m sure that’s a bridge too far at this point, so I won’t spend a whole lot of time on it. Truth is, we need universal registration and compulsory voting, and if not compulsory, something that is so easy that it would be inescapable and unavoidable.
But, here’s the rub. Even though it is great news that big dog democrats might finally be coming out for making it easier to register and vote, as long as they are half-stepping and the other party wants to do the exact opposite and that party happens to control both houses of Congress, we’re just pitching words at a wall. The Republicans want to hold onto what they have, and they understand full well that even though economic trends have been going their way, demographic trends are moving against them, so a day of reckoning is coming. Their interest is expressed clearly: put up barriers, restrict access to voting, discourage new voters, and make registration more cumbersome and difficult.
Maybe some states will get the message and open up the rolls and the voting booths, if there’s enough shouting, but otherwise it’s going to take picks, shovels, and dynamite to dig out the opposition to more democratic access to voting in America, and not some speeches every blue moon when some politicians remember that votes are actually counted every four years or so.