It is time to discuss solutions for voter suppression because the 2018 Midterm Elections have shed a spotlight on the practice.
Fortunately, there are many practical solutions to voter suppression. Moreover, many of those solutions are cheap, and fairly easy to implement.
Ten practical solutions for voter suppression include:
Stop electing state secretaries of state and other officials who oversee voter registration and elections.
The Governor’s race in Georgia is generating widespread suspicion because Republican candidate Brian Kemp was secretary of state.
To explain, as secretary of state, Kemp oversaw voter registration and elections. Additionally Kemp was in charge of the process that elected him governor.
Thus, numerous allegations of voter suppression and abuse have been against Kemp. Correspondingly, voters view the entire election process with suspicion.
Therefore, Kemp’s position as governor will be suspect even if he did nothing wrong. It is time to end the inherent conflict of interest in elected officials overseeing elections.
Make the officials in charge of elections and voter registration nonpolitical.
The practice of elected governors or secretaries of state appointing those in charge of elections creates a massive conflict of interest. It is time to eliminate that conflict by placing nonelected civil servants in charge of the process.
States could achieve this goal by having a state civil service commission; or the state supreme court, appoint the officials in charge of elections. However, the Supreme Court should only election officials in states with elected judges.
Another possibility to have an unelected commission of volunteers; similar to the redistricting commissions Arnold Schwarzenegger is promoting, appoint election officials. A more dramatic solution will be to create a federal elections agency staffed by civil servants that oversees all US elections.
Create a federal ID card for all legal residents and citizens of the United States.
Many of the worst voter suppression cases involve identification. A typical example involves officials refusing ballots to people without driver’s licenses. Circumstantial evidence indicates that large numbers of people cannot vote because they lack an official photo ID.
The current federal effort Real ID fails because it relies on state driver’s license bureaus to issue the documents. Notably, critics like Professor Carol Anderson accuse some state governments of deliberately limiting driver’s license bureau operations to make voter registration difficult.
The easiest way to solve this problem is to create an official photo ID for all Americans. To explain, Uncle Sam can issue the official photo ID to everybody with a Social Security number. We can amend The Voting Rights Act to make denying the vote to anybody with a valid federal photo ID a felony.
There have been efforts to create a federal photo ID before. However, political extremists of the right and left blocked that reasonable step. Notably, a federal photo ID could address Republican concerns about “vote fraud” and illegal voting.
Implement automatic voter registration nationwide.
Under automatic voter registration the state automatically gives every legal citizen to vote.
Thus no voter registration is necessary, anybody who shows up votes.. Automatic voter registration can limit voter suppression because vote suppressors often abuse voter registration requirements.
For instance, many states have laws that automatically remove voters who exercise their Constitutional right not to vote for three years from the rolls. Thus, suppressors can prevent law-abiding citizens from voting if they do not re-register.
Moreover, people will no longer have the excuses of not having a driver’s license or an expired registration for not voting. Instead, all they will have to do is go to the polls and present a legal ID to vote.
Allow voters to vote at any polling place.
In addition, we can amend the law so any citizen with a valid ID can vote for president at any polling place.
Additionally, anybody with a valid ID and proof they have an address in a jurisdiction may vote at a polling place in that jurisdiction. Moreover, property owners with a valid ID should have the right to vote in any jurisdiction that taxes their real estate.
Implement mail-in voting nationwide
Colorado and Oregon have the two highest rates of voter participation in the nation. The two states use mail-in ballots or vote by mail.
Thus adopting vote by mail nationwide could increase voter participation. In addition, going to mail-in ballots will eliminate most of the opportunities for voter suppression.
For example, there will be no opportunities for “volunteers;” or state employees, to challenge voters’ identities at the polls. Mail-in ballots could eliminate long lines and waits which discourage voting.
Make upgrades of election technology mandatory
One reason why voters correctly distrust the electoral system is outdated technology.
For example, the software in Georgia has not reportedly not upgraded its controversial voter registration system since 2005. Thus the system is vulnerable to malware like the North Korean WanaCry cyberweapon.
Congress should require all voting equipment to meet strict security standards and allocate funds to pay for it. The Election Security Agency (see below) will enforce those standards and take action against states that do not implement them.
Establish an Election Security Agency
Congress should establish a federal Election Security Agency (ESA).
The ESA will develop, mandate, and enforce standards for elections. For instance, the ESA will mandate security standards for election software and hardware.
In particular, the ESA will audit all election and voter registration systems. The ESA will have the power to take over state election systems that do not comply with standards.
The ESA’s other mission will be to monitor elections for security breaches and take appropriate action. The ESA will work with the NSA, FBI, CIA, and other federal agencies to identify threats to election security and counter them.
Create a secure digital voting system
Innovative technologies like the blockchain could far the basis of a voter-registration and election system that is faster and far more secure.
For instance, a tamper-resistant digital blockchain ID that could be accessed through smartphones can be created. They could use this digital ID at any polling place through technologies like QR Code. Advantages to digital ID include using biometric data to verify voters’ identities without relying on photographs.
Uniquely, the blockchain could form the basis of a secure digital online elections and voter registration system. For example, people could register to vote or vote from their smartphones.
However, we will have to invest a vast amount of time and money to create such a system. Congress must invest the money to develop a secure next generation voting system that uses such technologies.
An excellent way to achieve that goal is to set up a combination think tank and venture capital fund that will invest in next generation voting technology. The Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) will serve as a model for that entity.
To explain, DARPA funds the development of new weapons and other technologies for the U.S. military. Impressively, DARPA’s past successes include the Internet and GPS.
Thus creation of an elections technology DARPA is vital. Moreover, foreign governments must take part in the Election DARPA. In addition, the United States should share the election DARPA’s technology with other democratic governments.
We Must get Serious about fighting Voter Suppression
The media, politicians on both sides of the aisle, activists, and citizens need to get serious about fighting voter suppression.
If the media refuses to report voter suppression, citizens can take up the slack. For instance, voters who see vote suppression could record it with their phones and send it out on social media. In addition, we can station activists at the polls to watch for voter suppression and report it.
Finally, citizens must call out media outlets that refuse to report voter suppression. An effective tool will be to boycott such media outlets and their advertisers.
Moreover, we must hold bureaucrats and politicians that suppress votes accountable for their crimes against democracy. We can direct prosecutions, protests, boycotts, lawsuits, public shaming, recall elections, investigations, and civil disobedience against such individuals and their enablers in the media.
In addition, we must identify organizations that promote voter suppression and hold them accountable. Citizens can punish organizations by identifying their sources of funds and boycotting any company that contributes money to such groups. The so-called conservative think tanks that created the voter suppression strategies are the first entities we should target.
Making the lives of vote suppressors miserable will end the practice. If politicians know they will suffer they will think twice about suppressing votes.
“Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves and the only way they could do this is by not voting.” – — Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd President of the United States.