Why we need to standardize voting procedures across America

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By Shreya Vaidhyanathan, Opinion Editor Pennsylvanian voters could register online up until Oct. 24. Texans, on the other hand, had to register by mail or in-person by Oct. 11 because their state has not yet implemented online voter registration. In Alaska, voters could register online but had to do so by Oct. 9, a full...

By Shreya Vaidhyanathan, Opinion Editor

Pennsylvanian voters could register online up until Oct. 24. Texans, on the other hand, had to register by mail or in-person by Oct. 11 because their state has not yet implemented online voter registration. In Alaska, voters could register online but had to do so by Oct. 9, a full 30 days before election day, while 21 states, including Utah and Wyoming, allow for Election Day registration. 

All of this to say, the voter registration process is riddled with complicated, state-specific rules that overlap and contradict at will, causing voter confusion. With fairer practice regarding polling place distribution and less room for misinterpretation of voting procedures, national standardization under the federal government would serve the people more fairly. 

From registration deadlines to the voting rights of convicted felons, election procedure laws vary among the states endlessly. A study by Knight Foundation found that the leading reasons for potential voters’  discouragement from casting a ballot are a lack of information and confusion surrounding the voting process. Standardizing voting laws across the country, something that can only feasibly be accomplished with the aid of the federal government, would prevent this type of discouragement in voters.

Apart from dissonance throughout current legislation from state to state, another unpredictable aspect of local governments handling elections is the introduction of legislation that makes it harder to vote. The Brennan Center for Justice states that lawmakers have passed more than 40 restrictive voting laws across 21 states just this year, 34 of which can “disproportionately affect voters of color.” 

Those who oversee elections are generally partisan; NewsPress finds that in Florida, 66 of 67 counties are run by either a Democrat or Republican in office. If the federal government took the lead on the election process and adopted a bipartisan committee structure, voters’ lack of confidence due to partisan election overseers  is addressed.

In fact, Bipartisan Policy Center found that nationally, voters are more trusting of election results when it is a statement made by their state’s nonpartisan chief election official, as opposed to a Republican or Democrat party leader; adopting a bipartisan or nonpartisan structure could lead to a major decrease in voter doubt regarding elections.

Some may argue that, because Clause 1 of the Constitution states that elections are to be left up to the states, involving the federal government is harmful to states’ rights. What they seem to forget, however, is that the Constitution is a living, breathing document, one that’s entire purpose is to serve the people of the United States to its absolute best ability. 

Earlier this year, an NPR survey found that 64% of Americans believe that U.S. democracy is “in crisis and at risk of failing.” When public opinion holds that the current system is broken, it is the government’s job to rectify the situation and better serve the people, even if that means altering the supreme law of the land.

To take steps to standardize voting laws across the country, contact your local representatives and make sure they know that this is an issue their constituents care about. Additionally, supporting various programs that lobby against restrictive voting laws is of utmost significance in this fight. Let’s make it easier for Americans to have their voice heard.


Shreya Vaidhyanathan can be reached at [email protected]

 

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