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Why Universal Voter Registration Matters

Sean McElwee
Huffington Post

Last night, Hillary Clinton announced several important voting reforms: expanded early voting, an end to voter ID laws, felon voting rights restoration and making election day a federal holiday. Most importantly, she came out in favor of universal, automatic voter registration.

Great progressive expansions in the United States have always followed mass voter mobilization. Women's suffrage led to a rise in government spending and an expansion of public health spending that decreased child mortality by eight to 15 percent (20,000 children a year). The Voting Rights Act dramatically changed the American political landscape andshifted more government transfers to counties with higher shares of Black people. The abolition of poll taxes and literacy test boosted turnout among the poor and bolstered spending on social services. Today, felon disenfranchisement has shifted more than a billion dollars out of poor and Black communities.

As America slouches toward oligarchy, we need another dramatic voter mobilization. Universal automatic registration could be the policy to bring that transformation.