The Future Of Voting

Posted in Around The Nation, Elections at 12:51 pm by wcnews

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Florida) is about to introduce a bill with that would shake up, in a good way, our elections. Via Election Law Blog, Follow Bill Nelson’s Lead on Reforming Elections System.

Nelson is soon to introduce a sweeping plan to deal with a number of election-related issues, some more relevant than others. He wants to abolish the Electoral College; blow up the current presidential nominating process and replace it with a series of rotating regional primaries; and enact a series of changes to clean up the voting process and make voting easier.

On the nuts and bolts of election reform, Nelson’s heart is in the right place, and many of his suggestions are excellent. I am enthusiastic about ways to clean up and coordinate registration lists to establish uniform criteria, and finding ways to facilitate registration among young voters especially. I also think that expanding early voting, as Florida has done, is a good idea so long as it is voting at established polling places and confined to a limited time.

I am not enthusiastic about his suggestion that we sharply expand voting by mail and create a nationwide requirement for absentee voting on demand. The real issues of voter fraud are in voting by mail, not at the polls, and voting by mail also eliminates the zone of privacy that exists in a voting booth and erases any of the sense of civic duty that comes with joining one’s fellow citizens at the polls.

But the fact is that voting at the polls has become a distinctly difficult and unpleasant experience for way too many voters. We need to find ways to make the experience something positive. Here, Congress and the states need to consider many other approaches to accomplish that goal. A key is to provide more money to hire and train poll workers, and to expand the universe to include students and other young people who can easily absorb the training to operate the voting machines, check the registration lists and know the rules in each jurisdiction.

Another is to change Election Day, an issue the new organization Why Tuesday? has focused on this year. (Check out its Web site, with great videos of major political figures from all sides trying to answer the question of why we vote on Tuesday.) I favor weekend voting, either a 24-hour period beginning noon Saturday, or long hours on both days to avoid Sabbath problems and give many opportunities to workers who otherwise can only go during peak voting hours.

We should couple weekend voting with a sharp expansion of vote centers, consolidating many scattered precincts-each with inadequate facilities, parking, voting machines, technicians and poll workers-into bigger sites like Wal-Marts, supermarkets and stadiums, which can pool the poll workers, experts and machines. This process requires up-to-date registration lists to match each voter with the appropriate ballot, and will take time, money and effort, but Larimer County in Colorado has shown that it can work, sharply expanding turnout and voter satisfaction. Vote centers also resulted in an upgrade of poll worker quality and a reduction in average age.

I am hoping to try an experiment in this vein in the District of Columbia. I hope we can get wonderfully civic-minded team owners Abe Pollin and the Lerner family to open their facilities as vote centers, and get Mayor Adrian Fenty to mobilize to make the process work. Imagine if voters could go to Nationals Park, where players and other celebrities would gather, be encouraged to bring their kids to see them vote, and let the kids run the bases-while others could shoot baskets and meet Wizards while doing the same thing at the Verizon Center. I would bet turnout would shoot up, and kids would get socialized in the idea that voting is a positive thing and a civic duty.

If Nelson’s ideas are imperfect, at least he is eager to seize this issue and expand our debate. I hope others will join him. We are not going to find a magic fix for 2008, beyond prayer that the election will not be close. But the problems go way beyond any fix for this year anyhow.

Here’s the link to Why Tuesday? I like weekend voting or making election day a holiday. Making registration easier is a good thin too. What do you think about these changes?


  1. Eye on Williamson » The true fraud in our voting system said,

    August 22, 2012 at 11:17 am

    [...] Further Readging: The Future of Voting. [...]

  2. Eye on Williamson » Vote centers may be coming to Williamson County said,

    February 7, 2013 at 4:00 pm

    [...] Reading: The Future Of Voting. Why [...]

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