Every day in America, nearly 12,000 people turn 18, the legal age for voting – enacted by the 26th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. There is currently no systemic process to register these adults to vote or help them become informed (in general) about the political process.
In 2014, an estimated 36% of Americans turned up at the polls to cast their ballot. This was the lowest voter turnout in a Presidential Election since 1942. Going back to WWII, voting percentages have ranged from a low of 52% to a high of 64%. At nearly half of our population, around 120 million people, America’s largest political party is the party of non-voters. Prior to 2012, the lowest voter turnout for a Presidential Election was in 1996, and before that, the 1920s when women won the right to vote.
Why are Americans not voting? One answer is Republicans are rigging the system in their favor by passing onerous voter identification laws that are sold to the American public as a means to curtail fraud at the polls.
Loyola Law Professor Justin Levitt completed an examination on voter fraud allegations between 2000 and 2014, and what he found was 31 credible allegations of in-person voter impersonation out of approximately ONE BILLION votes.
Regardless of what your conservative friends may say, voter ID laws were never intended to address voter fraud, they are specifically designed to discourage voter turnout. A study completed by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (an independent non-partisan gov watchdog) found that states with strict voter ID laws had turnouts drop between 2-3% compared to states without them. Strict voter ID only serves one purpose, suppressing voter turnout by minorities and others on the left of the political spectrum who typically vote Democrat.
Studies found that African Americans were 1.78 times more likely and Latinos 2.42 times more likely to lack accepted forms of ID for voting.
For many eligible voters, securing a valid ID is not a simple process for many different reasons (not all within their control, either). Even in states that do offer free voter ID cards, there can be unaffordable costs associated with obtaining them (obtaining a copy of a birth certificate, proof of name changes, original Social Security Card, etc.).
In 2014, the state of Alabama implemented voter ID laws that prevented hundreds of otherwise eligible voters from casting their ballot. In October of 2015, Alabama announced they were closing 31 of their DMVs, most located in rural, impoverished, majority-black counties, making it extremely difficult for residents to get the most common form of ID used to vote. In some parts of the country (WI, AL, MS), less than half of the offices that issue legal voter IDs are open five days a week. In Sauk City, WI, the ID office is only open on the 5th Wednesday of every month.
“March-June-August-November have 5 Wednesdays, but remember, if you come on days not those, fuck yourself they’re fucking closed.” – John Oliver
In Texas, at least 500,000 registered voters do not have the proper ID to vote. In North Carolina and Wisconsin, there are approximately 600,000 otherwise eligible voters who do not have proper identification. In Virginia, approx. 200,000 voters do not have a valid, state issued photo ID. Based on those statistics, you likely know at least one person without a valid ID.
Instead of suppressing voter turnout, we need to make it easier for Americans to vote. How do we do this? For starters, here are 15 ways we could make voting easier and more efficient. In 2014 and again in 2015, Senator Bernie Sanders introduced legislation to make Election Day a national Federal Holiday. The legislation was turned down both times.
Another crazy idea is to look to other countries for inspiration. For example, Australia has a compulsory (mandatory) voting system. Since enacting compulsory voting, the turnout rate in Australia has not fallen lower than 90% overall. Choosing not to vote in Australia will not get you thrown in jail or some secret international FEMA camp, but it will get you a fine (currently around $18 in AU), a small price to pay for democracy.
Republicans biggest fear is not taxes, or getting their boomsticks taken away, or terrorism (especially homegrown domestic terrorism), or Muslims, or gay Muslims, or anything they are whining about at any given moment of the day or night. No, Republicans biggest fear is something they are too afraid to even mention… voters like you and me, voting them out of office.