Surprising Ways Voting Registration Laws in the US Affect Voter Turnout
November 8, 2016
This election year has been full of shocking moments and highlighted many concerning issues. Voting registration laws is one such issue that has not been very front and center, but certainly will be after election day when the world will want to know who made it to the polls and why.
The U.S. lags behind other developed nations in voting ease and turnout rates, partly because the current registration processes in most states are confusing, slow, and poorly administered. This year’s federal election is the first since a 2013 court decision voided key provisions of the Voting Rights Act. There are 14 states with restrictive voting laws that have gone into effect since the last presidential election. Wisconsin residents have been complaining about the state’s recently changed voter ID laws due to disenfranchisement. Across the nation, changing and confusing voter ID laws could mean that in upcoming elections, millions of eligible voters will be disenfranchised by registration problems, and errors on registration lists.
Many politicians justify registration and voting restrictions as necessary to preventing voter fraud, but several major studies have shown that impersonation fraud is rare and does not threaten election integrity. There is evidence that the ensuing spate of voter registration and election laws passed by states were veiled attempts to make it harder for certain groups to vote. On the other hand, many states have sought to remove any such barriers, hoping to encourage higher turnout among “swing” demographics.
Voter ID laws that require showing up at a government office during the work week with paper records in hand can be too cumbersome for elderly, students, working class, rural, and poor. States with more restrictive voter ID laws need to provide streamlined ways for voters to register.
Employing existing identity verification technology would provide a solution to address the concerns of identity fraud, and eliminate restrictive and controversial regulations. Streamlining the process with digital technology can simultaneously improve voter access and turnout.
The same logic can be applied to other government run processes including TSA and border control. Imagine simply walking through gate check security on your next flight. This is already happening with ePassports and electronic gates and automated border control systems that utilize biometrics such as facial recognition- just not in the US. Let’s hope that day is not far away. Technology providers such as Acuant have the solutions, it is time the US government starts deploying them.