Really enjoyed this NYT editorial on making voter registration simpler because it makes a point I always emphasize with my students. We are using 19th century technology in a 21st century world. Before computers and the internet certainly made sense to require registration 30 days before an election because it actually takes time to deal with all that paperwork. But in the modern world, there’s really no good reason to have any exclusion periods like this on voter registration. Unless you want less people to vote (here’s looking at you, Republican Party). Anyway:
The vast majority of states rely on a 19th-century registration method: requiring people to fill out a paper form when they become eligible to vote, often at a government office, and to repeat the process every time they move. This is a significant reason why the United States has a low voter participation rate.
The persistence of the paper system is all the more frustrating because a growing number of states have shown that technology can get more people on voter rolls. There’s no reason why every state cannot automatically register eligible voters when they have contact with a government agency. The most common method, now used in 17 states, electronically sends data from motor vehicle departments to election offices…
The obsolete paper system has resulted in an overall registration rate of only 68 percent in the United States. Canada, by contrast, registers 93 percent of its population, using a computerized system that automatically gathers records from tax forms, the military and vital statistics agencies, as well as motor vehicle offices.
This country has a long and terrible tradition of erecting barriers to participation. In earlier eras, the obstacles were overt, like literacy tests to keep minorities and poor people off the rolls. Recent methods are subtler but still harmful. In 2004, Ohio briefly banned registration forms not printed on 80-pound paper to make it easier to invalidate minority voter drives without access to the forms. Even now, many Republican lawmakers are doing everything they can to maintain intimidating requirements.
This chart below should be considered simply unacceptable (yes, keep looking all the way to the bottom). Alas, to many it’s not.