Ladies and Gentlemen, the time to vote has rolled around once more. Primaries are here and voter registration is a hot topic. I’m not one to generally wade into touchy topics but what the heck, why not? Everyone’s doing it. The State of Washington passed new voter registration laws this past week which automatically registers anyone over the age of 18 when they renew their driver’s license.
“Voting is a right, not a privilege. We need to make voting as easy as possible for every citizen in Washington and that starts with registration. We now have the technology to make it seamless, so why wouldn’t we? Automatic voter registration will increase the opportunity to register and vote without endangering the security of the election process.” – Sam Hunt, Senator
Working in a state that has no forward movement in its voting process I have to say this seems like a straightforward process that makes life easier for both the citizens and the city officials. If citizens knew they were registered to vote as long as their driver’s license was current it would eliminate a lot of the confusion around voting. Citizens wouldn’t need a file folder of documents when they come to city hall to register, in hopes one of their documents would be accepted for proof of residency.
This, of course, has effects on city staff (the Clerk’s office) that would otherwise be assisting citizens to register to vote. From my time in the Clerk’s office as an intern, I saw first hand the time spent leading up to an election, helping citizens register and getting any previous issues they had, squared away. It’s a daunting task that is thrown into the mix of their everyday work. I can only imagine the joy a bill like this would bring to clerks everywhere.
Are there flaws in this system? I would argue yes. There is a lot of conversation within ELGL on how to get younger citizens to understand the importance of voting and getting them to actually show up to vote. In that same breathe, what age group moves from apartment to apartment, ward to ward, city to city, every year or so? Yes, the younger generation. I can’t speak to other states but here in the Dairy Land, a drivers license is good for eight years. If it wasn’t for the fact that my license expired at the same time I was moving I would not have updated it just to have the proper address on it. Therefore, with Washington’s new system I would still be legally registered in my hometown almost two hours away?? That’s an extreme example though, there are plenty of people who move several times within the same city. They surely won’t update their license to show their new address which is just a few blocks from their old one. So we then again run into the issue of things not being quite as easy as we thought.
I know our friends in Oregon have adopted a similar Bill, so maybe the drivers license laws are different in these states, but here in Wisconsin, I can see the issues that would be alarming. Tweet me and let me know what the laws are in your state. Who knows, maybe Wisconsin is just way behind the times.