The policies impacting the public’s ability to vote fascinates me more than any other issue. The Presidents Advisory Commission on Election Integrity has propelled how we cast our ballots back into the spotlight. The Commission has largely been assembled to investigate President Trump’s belief that our election system allows millions to vote illegally. Led by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach – who favors stricter voting regulations – the Commission has been attacked by state officials of both parties after their requests for voter data which includes sensitive information such as citizens social security numbers. An overwhelming majority of State Secretaries have vocally denied the Commission’s request citing their skepticism of the Commissions plan for the voter rolls.
Sadly, voter fraud gains the most attention in conversation about voting, though it it rarely occurs, ever – 31 times between 2000 – 2014 according to a Washington Post study. This creates an absence of dialogue about actually structural and policy changes that could improve our election system.
The greatest challenge is that voting procedures are selected at the discretion of state and local governments. With each state given the ability to act independently it creates a lack of cohesion involving registration dates and early voting periods. Without a national standard citizens who move across state lines may be unaware of the laws in their new state of residence.
One change that could improve the system includes strategic outreach. Unfortunately, states do not have programs that generate awareness of upcoming elections. Distributing information should be a primary focus so the public won’t have to concern with the logistics at the final moments. Communicating with voters through direct mail containing the races, ballot initiatives and polling stations can simply keep the community informed. Election departments can also take out advertisements in local newspapers and television markets that have low turnout. A creative idea could include having election teams visit high schools with the goal to register young adults. This would not only engage the future electorate but also fill in the gaps of those who may not have proper documentation without their visit.
The greatest improvement needs to strengthen the general infrastructure of the system, rather modernize it. Today to many poling stations and websites appear to be stuck in a past era. Some booths still use complicated paper ballots and the electronic systems never seem up to date with current technological advancements. Developing technologies that can adequately respond to voter’s request but also present information in concise formats can be extremely beneficial. Local software companies can be contracted to provide expertise in digital formatting and information systems while stimulating economic growth.
Though legislative changes can make large gains towards a better system, it cannot be achieved without a mental and economic buy-in. Before we can build a better structure we must come to a consensus on what the end goal is. Improvements cannot be made until conservatives drop their biased concerns of voter fraud. Coming to an understanding of what is required and lacking from our system is the best way to set achievable goals. Agreements on solutions and plans of actions mean nothing unless we commit resources to them. This means being consistent with plans even when the immediate results show minimal improvements. Similar to education and environmental policy while we yearn for an instant return for our investment, change comes through undeviating focus in appearance and substance on the issue.