On Wednesday, U.S. Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) Asks, Why Aren’t People Automatically Registered To Vote?
Well that’s an easy one Congressman. The people who control power in this country want to prevent “those others” who do not have power from ever voting, and to make it as difficult as possible for them to register and to vote. This is necessary for them to maintain control of their power.
Think Progress (above) reports:
Currently, 24 percent of eligible Americans are not registered to vote. Even if 100 percent of those who are registered show up and cast a ballot in any given national election [it is always well below 50 percent in non-presidential years, and below 60 percent in presidential years since 1968. National Voter Turnout in Federal Elections: 1960–2014], one fourth of the country would not be participating in the electoral process.
U.S. Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) wants to change that. The congressman from Rhode Island introduced the Automatic Voter Registration Act on Wednesday, which would expand ballot access to eligible voters by automatically registering to vote any citizen who provides his or her information to the state motor vehicle department. The departments would then forward the individual’s information to the election boards unless he or she chose to opt-out. Currently, only Oregon has an automatic registration system in place, but Cicilline told ThinkProgress that his bill would “shift the burden” across the country and automatically register 85 percent of all eligible voters.
“Having been in Congress now for five years, I have really been struck by the absence of the voice of so many Americans in this process and the low participation in our elections,” he said. “I wondered where this obligation came from that we impose on eligible voters the obligation of going through the registration process rather than reversing the presumption, saying ‘actually, if you’re a U.S. citizen and a qualified electorate, you’re eligible to vote.’”
Cicilline said he modeled the legislation after a bill that was signed in Oregon in March, making it first state to set up automatic registration. Since Oregon successfully changed its registration model, other states including Vermont and California have considered following suit.
Last week, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton called for national automatic registration in a speech focused on voting rights, saying that “every young man or young woman in every state in the union should be automatically registered to vote when they turn 18 — unless they actively choose to opt-out.”
Clinton also addressed other measures that would expand voting, including requiring a minimum number of early voting hours in each state and restoring the Voting Rights Act, which the U.S. Supreme Court gutted in 2013. But Cicilline said the need for automatic registration should be prioritized before all of the other voting fixes.
“It’s the entry point to voting because all the other efforts you make — early voting and making Election Day a national holiday and the work we do individually to encourage people to participate — none of that can happen without a person being allowed to vote,” he said. “Then I think we have lots more work to do to make it easier and to remove other obstacles.”
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Cicilline said he doesn’t consider the issue a partisan one and he is hopeful his bill can garner bipartisan support, however unlikely it is to pass in a Republican-controlled Congress.
“I don’t think speaking about the importance of expanding access to the ballot box and protecting the right of individuals to exercise this really important responsibility is politicizing it,” Cicilline said. “This is an American issue, it’s not a Democratic or Republican issue. I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to persuade some of my Republican colleagues to support the legislation.”
Expanding voter registration across the country could substantially boost the participation rate of young people, African Americans and Hispanics, groups which all have lower registration rates than the general population. If the legislation were to pass, it would also likely increase voter turnout, which hit a record low in the 2014 midterm election. A recent study found that had voter registration deadlines been extended to Election Day nationwide, between three and four million additional citizens would have registered to vote, potentially increasing turnout by as much as three percent.
Those who want to make our democracy a mockery by limiting citizen participation in elections so that they can maintain their control of power is why we cannot have not nice things in this country.