Voting is the bedrock of our democracy. In a government of, by and for the people, casting a ballot is the fundamental means through which we all have a say in the political decisions that affect our lives. Yet today, without substantial interventions, the freedom to vote is at great risk.
Across the country, state legislatures in recent years have deliberately altered policies to make it harder for citizens to cast a ballot—disproportionately affecting voters of color, low-income voters, young voters, and other vulnerable groups. Our system of election administration—a patchwork of rules and requirements that vary by state—is outdated, with far too many eligible voters encountering unnecessary barriers to registration, waiting hours to cast their vote, or having their vote rejected because of administrative errors, polling place confusion or other errors.
This is not the election system we want, nor the one we deserve.
Millions to the Polls outlines sixteen policies and practices that would make registration more accessible and seamless, lead to more effective and efficient election administration, and strengthen protections for voters’ rights.
Section 1: Expanding & Streamlining Voter Registration
Registering to vote, and updating that registration, should be readily accessible to eligible voters. Our proposals focus on improvements in technology and database maintenance to make registration more seamless, expanding the ability for eligible voters to register and vote on the same day, enforcing and expanding existing laws that provide registration opportunities to low-income voters, and encouraging community involvement in voter registration outreach.
Section 2: Making Voting Work
Voting should not be a test of endurance or will power. Making our electoral system work at its peak potential starts with having Election Day be the last, not the only day that a voter can cast her ballot. We also propose ideas for standardizing poll worker training and ballot design, and removing partisan politics from our election administration.
Section 3: Protecting & Counting Every Vote
Even one disenfranchised voter is too many. Yet today nearly six million citizens are unable to vote due to a prior felony conviction—a betrayal of our belief in both redemption and the inalienable right to vote. In this section we outline policies to ensure formerly incarcerated persons can regain their voting rights after serving time—ending a long-standing exclusion that has no place in our democracy. In addition, we must protect citizens from overly restrictive voter identification laws that disproportionately result in low-income, older and persons of color not being able to cast their ballot. Finally, we outline solutions to respond to the rise of unwarranted third-party voter challenges, intimidation and deceptive practices.
Over the Horizon Ideas
In addition to modernizing our election system and strengthening protections of the freedom to vote, we also identify two bold ideas that deserve broader discussion as we seek to expand our nation’s commitment to a truly representative democracy. In this section, we discuss the policy of voting as an affirmative duty of citizenship, and describe innovative ideas for the federal government to improve state election funding to promote voter registration and better election administration.