Voting is the most important aspect of civic engagement that one can participate in. The seriousness of voting was emphasized by our founders. Since our nation’s inception, there has been a steady expansion of voting rights. However, compared to other developed nations, the level of participation in national and midterm elections lags behind.
This has occurred for a number of reasons. Many feel as if their vote doesn’t matter anymore. Others feel as if the registration process is too lengthy and onerous. Many are right in these regards. The process to vote is overly complicated and there are many states in which the minority parties vote is wasted. In 2016, only 56% of those of the age to vote, actually voted according to pew research. The current system of voting isn’t working for many Americans. I believe there are a number of creative solutions which should be pursued.
First, we should abolish the entire system of registering to vote. If the government can sign you up for a national draft at the age of 18, the additional step of registering everyone to vote is simple. The current system is inefficient and costly. Each time a citizen interacts with the government and updates their personal information, such as address or marital status, their registration should be automatically updated. This allows for voter rolls to stay up to date, uncluttered by those who have moved out of state and saves time and money for all involved. 13 states and the District of Columbia have already adopted this change, with many more states considering similar proposals currently.
Second, the federal government should offer a tax credit to citizens who vote in the midterms and national elections. It is in the best of the government as a whole if our democratic system is functioning at a high level. Nothing entices people more than money. The cost of offering even a $250 tax break for people who voted in either election, would be offset by the increased participation in our civic institutions. When people are involved in the voting process, trust in our national institutions begins to flourish.
Third, we must abandon the vestiges of Jim Crow which still haunt our voting system. There is no reason why, in the year 2018, felons are banned from voting for life. This policy is thinly veiled racism, which targets communities of color and discourages reintegration into society as a whole. Convicted felons, who have already paid the price for their crimes, should not continue to be punished until the day they die. Being a felon does not lower the value of their human life. Their voice and vote matters.
Lastly, election day should be declared a national holiday. Schools and businesses should be closed for the duration of the day. Too many of our most vulnerable communities are kept from voting by having to work multiple jobs. Voting should not be a reserved privilege for those who can afford to take time off of work. Specifically, voting is something to be celebrated and encouraged by the federal government. If election day were a holiday, no one would have any excuse for not voting.
Any of these reforms or any combination of these reforms could vastly improve our democratic processes. It should be a priority of our local and national leaders to enact legislation which encourages all citizens to vote. Many are more concerned with gathering voters to maintain their positions, than they are with getting more people to vote. I would encourage you to first of all vote, but secondly contact your legislators throughout the state and national government to advocate for these changes.