My Personal Project for 2020: Time to Register to Vote
Posted on January 1, 2020 Posted by John Scalzi 103 Comments
For the last few years, the subhead for Whatever has remained the same: “This Site Mocks Fascists.” I thought it was a good subhead, since it both set the tone for the site, and also, made people aware of the sort of person the proprietor of the site was. But now it’s 2020, an election year, and I think it’s time to retire that subhead and put up something else — something more aspirational, and dare I say, more important.
2020 is an election year in the United States, and in several states where the GOP holds a political majority in the state houses, there is a decided push to shove people off the voting rolls and to make voting generally more difficult, particularly for people who are not white and (heavy correlation, here) not likely to vote Republican. We could dive deep into why that is, but the short version is that here in 2020, the GOP is the party that caters to racist white people, and one of the ways the party catering to racist white people has decided to win elections in 2020 is to make it difficult for anyone who doesn’t vote with racist white people to cast their ballot.
This isn’t right and it isn’t fair, and frankly, it’s unamerican. In my more perfect union, every adult US citizen would be automatically registered to vote on their 18th birthday, and could not removed from the voting rolls until their death. But we don’t live in that more perfect union, we live in this imperfect one. So, it’s important for every adult US citizen — especially those currently targeted by the GOP — to register to vote, the sooner the better. It’s also important for every adult US citizen — especially those currently targeted by the GOP — to check their registrations to make sure they’re still valid, and (in my opinion) to check regularly; I just checked mine, and will do it again every month between now and election day. And of course once these folks are registered, and have checked to make sure their registration is still valid, it also important that they actually vote — both in primary elections and caucuses if they are able (which start next month) and in the national election in November.
Thus, the new Whatever subhead for 2020: “Time to Register to Vote.” Accompanying that subhead, a widget in the site sidebar, which shows up on every page of the site, encouraging adult US citizens to register and to check their registration, with links for both of those activities. Both the sidebar and the widget are up through Election Day, which is November 3, 2020. Beyond that I’ll be making it my personal mission to encourage every adult US citizen to register to vote, check their registration and then vote when they can. It’s good for them and good for the country.
(Along this line, I’ve also updated my Twitter bio with the links to register and to check one’s registration.)
Speaking of which: Hey, are you an adult US citizen? If you are, are you registered to vote? And if you are, have you checked your registration to make sure it’s still valid? Get on it, folks. I’ll be bugging you about it all year long.
1. The tedious disclaimers: Not every Republican is an active racist, yes, fine, but boy howdy has the GOP made its party the one for racists these days. Likewise, not every Democrat (or Democratic candidate or policy) is a perfect model for racial harmony and/or voting rights, blah blah blah, so on and so forth. Let’s just not pretend that at the current moment and state of our political system, one party is not actively worse than the other with all this shit (that would be the GOP, folks).
2. In a larger sense, if you’re not for every adult US citizen being automatically registered to vote at 18, remaining automatically registered to vote through their life, and being encouraged to vote in every election (which, incidentally, I would argue includes the government going out of its way to making all sorts of information about the people/positions/issues up for vote available and easily accessible to every voter), what the fuck is wrong with you?
3. As this is a political thread and bound to be contentious — although why encouraging people to register to vote and then vote should be seen as contentious is beyond me — the Mallet is out. Please be polite to each other, thanks.
This is a wonderful and awesome idea – thank you!
Fantastic project! Inspirational, too. I’m not sure how I can encourage people to register — I don’t do much in the way of social media — but I will definitely be thinking about it.
Given the choice between the party of racists or the party of antisemites, I’ll most likely be voting Green again.
mcduquesne coming in early for the stupidest comment of the thread, let’s not try to top him on it, please.
Also, let’s not make this a comment thread for general whining about politics, let’s keep the focus on voting, and people being able to do it. Thanks.
Great project! Not least because within our lifetimes people were killed for trying to vote.
Quick question while we’re here: would you write Grand Old Party every time you write GOP?
Great idea! I will be doing the same. My daughter graduates high school this year and I will be reminding her classmates, and their parents, at every turn to register *and* apply for an absentee ballot before they leave for college. Good luck to us.
I’m Canadian, but was very politically active when I was younger, and volunteered on a lot of campaigns. On election day, and for the advance polls, we used to offer babysitting for half an hour to an hour, so the adults in the house could go vote. Offer rides to the polls for those who had transportation difficulties. Offer to call people when our scrutineers reported the lines at their polls were short.
Do American parties do these things during elections to help get the vote out? Could they, if they had more volunteers? Would you suggest volunteering for such concretely good aims? As I said, I know Canadian election law, so there may be different circumstances preventing all these things from happening that I’m not aware of.
Oregon automatically registers citizens to vote when they get their driver’s license. There’s probably still some bureaucratic steps for citizens who don’t drive or new citizens who already have a license, etc. We also have paper ballots that we return through the mail, essentially absentee ballots for everyone.
Great project! I’d also recommend adding the deadline for registration – unless that’s tediously different in all the states.
THANK YOU for this article.
Very well said.
As a Wisconsin resident, I am full aware of the shenanigans the GOP are pulling with registrations. Between the voter ID rules, gerrymandering, kicking people off the voter rolls, and closing many DMV offices to make it more difficult to get the required IDs, they are doing their damnedist to keep WI red. We are actively pursuing the release of the list of names recently kicked off so that we can contact each person and get them re-registered. Nothing more critical than turn out by every eligible voter. I don’t care if you’re Republican or Democrat or libertarian or green or any other affiliation — there is no greater responsibility as a citizen than to vote!
As an early reminder also: if you get to the polls and find that the powers that be have removed you from the rolls, ask for a provisional ballot (a request that must be honored).
I’ve said, from a young age, that when 90% of those eligible register and 90% of those registered actually show up and vote, then this shit will change. Waiting for racist, old, white men to croak and cede the political field is a tedious process.
I encourage that all US citizens be registered to vote and provided a number of options in order to exercise that right. Whether that results in a continuation of ambiguous political consequences is another issue … but yes, as many people need to vote and be allowed to vote as possible in this country. For one, I need to know just who we are at this moment.
I renewed my driver’s license the other day, and one of the steps showed my current party registration and gave me the options to correct, keep, or change it. I appreciated that.
Just checked my registration status, as well as those of everyone in my family, because I live in one of those states that is actively working to disenfranchise as many voters as possible, with special emphasis on those who are non-white, non-wealthy and non-conservative. I am pleased to say that everyone in the family has an up-to-date registration, including the niece who just turned 18 less than a month ago.
That said, you are absolutely correct that it is something to keep tabs on regularly, and I very much appreciate you taking the lead on this kind of reminder. I will do my best to follow your excellent example.
Coming from a country where citizens are automatically registered to vote on their 18th birthday, and where vote is mandatory, the hurdles that people face in the US to exercise that fundamental right and duty never cease to amaze. (Don’t worry, our political process has its due shares of issues, but that is not the subject)
More astonishing – there does not seem to be any structural effort to address this situation – not from the party supposed to benefit from it, that seems a given, but also not from the other side. Has there been any proposal to use for example social security number (as I understand, a unique and systematic identifier?) to automatically register voters? Are there any reason it would be impractical? Does this lack of action from any indicate that both major parties benefit from the restrictions imposed on voting rights?
Maybe the answers to the above are obvious for inside observers of the US political scene, in which case my apologies for asking the obvious and thank to those willing to enlighten outsiders.
Wishing alll the best for 2020… it seems it’s going to be a tough one, politically speaking.
This is probably the most important thing to do with your privilege, money, and celebrity.
Because its the most important thing. If we fuck it up, nothing else matters. One of the charities I donate to is Never Again Action, which fights a symptom that is Trump’s camps. And my democratic of choice should fix the root, so the symptoms won’t keep happening.
This madness needs to end. And I fear we’re going to get four more years, that our institutions will fail, and America will fall further into fascism. Fair elections with everyone voting is the way to prevent that.
Good idea: we should all look to ways to make sure everybody votes, especially in the problematic portions of the nation.
Happy New Year!
While I can’t require that my students register to vote, I sure can assign essays on why it would be a good idea…
@zibelyne, the answer to your question regarding the various hurdles some American voters are enduring to exercise their right may be grounded in our American principles, I believe. Namely, freedom of opportunity or choice. This is a very big thing in the US. It is the heart of the resistance for Obamacare. There are Americans who would rather have a plethora of bad choices than one or two better ones. The American perception of choice is somewhat akin to a slot machine in a casino: you never know what you’re going to get, but the next try may be the big winner–so keep at it.
While voting is a right in the US it is also a choice. Whether a US citizen votes, and therefore registers, is entirely up to them. ‘Mandatory’ anything is not seen in a good light in America, though more social mores are finally seeping into the American ‘collective.’
While it’s highly laudable to change your subhead to encourage voter registration, it would be even better if you could provide a convenient tool to help people accomplish the task. How about embedding a link to vote.gov at the top of the page? It’s a great starting point for anyone in any state to find out their registration status and update it if necessary.
Would you consider a sub-subhead?
“(mocking fascists us not enough)”
Saffy the Pook:
Am I to understand embedding a link to vote.gov on literally every single page of the site in the sidebar, under the headline “Register to Vote,” as noted in the piece itself, is not sufficient for you?
@zibelyne — Social Security numbers are unique, but these days they’re also prime targets for identity theft. Unless we (the US) can do something to massively beef up security on voting records, linking a SSN to a voter registration form wouldn’t be a very good idea.
If you’re looking for even MORE to do, here’s a great post on it:
On my 18th birthday, my parents took me out to lunch and then to register to vote. I did the same for my son on his 18th birthday. I’m fortunate enough to live in a state that makes it easy to stay registered.
@John – the vote.com link isn’t showing up for me in either FF or Chrome.
John, wrt Saffy’s comment, the theme you have chosen *removes* that sidebar on mobile devices unless you happen to read in landscape mode. So, for a nontrivial number of readers it simply isn’t there.
Adding the link into the subheading might be a good idea.
So, I agree with the general thrust of your post: that every citizen should be able to register to vote and exercise their franchise quite easily, and that many recent efforts to purge voter rolls are nakedly political and unacceptable attempts to disenfranchise actual voters.
However I’m far from sold on your idea that every citizen should be automatically registered and have that registration follow them throughout their life. To implement this idea would require an effort, probably on the federal level, to keep much better track of each citizen’s current address (and name, and whether or not they’re still alive) than is currently done.
This is a very difficult task to get right, and the amount of bureaucratic apparatus needed to accomplish it would be seen as overly intrusive to a great many people.
The closest we might have right now of a complete record would be the decennial census. A great deal of effort is put into counting everyone. Leading up to the census there’s a massive effort to make sure the bureau is aware of every residential address so they can send forms out to everyone. Then there’s an army of people who go around tracking down responses from every address that didn’t respond for one reason or another.
All this is just to try and get a snapshot of everyone’s address at one moment in time every ten years. Imagine the effort needed to collect everyone’s current address all the time, tracking individuals as they move so that their previous place of residence can be informed that they don’t live there anymore.
For people who want to make sure their address is known so that they can continue to vote it’s fairly easy, but these folks are already served pretty well in theory by the current system where people need to proactively register. For everyone who isn’t quite so proactive about reporting address changes you’ll need to hire people to go around to every residence in the country to see who lives there. This will need to happen prior to every election (primary, general, and special).
I’m not even trying to touch on the people who are living in one place but entitled to vote in another (college students, military personnel and their families, citizens living overseas, snowbirds, etc.). That’s a whole other can of worms that would need to be dealt with.
Is all this extra effort worthwhile? It sure seems like that is overkill when all you really need to do is get election officials in all 50 states on board with the idea that facilitating elections where every citizen can vote is literally their job.
Sorry, Mr. Scalzi. In my defense, I was pre-coffee. I see that you’ve also done the same with your Twitter bio. Bravo.
Thank you, John.
Just… thank you.
The word “mensch” comes to mind. Own it.
And yet nearly every other Western democracy manages it.
Same age as John, naturalized citizen, registered to vote. Already got the ballot selection (as I’m in CA and registered independent).
San Diego makes it pretty easy to both register and vote (by permanent mail vote in my case – due to 4 sides of choices in most elections).
Not that my vote really matters in CA, but in the states where the GOP is actively working to disenfranchise people, it sure as hell does. Which is of course the point of their despicable tactics.
John: but the other western democracies are godless communists who track every waking movement of their citizens, unlike the NSA. American exceptionalism, fuck yeah.
@Eric, it’s not as hard as you think. Elections Canada does a very good job of it.
First, I have to tout how wonderfully apolitical they are. Their employees are legally barred from having public political opinions, to the point where they aren’t allowed to wear clothing in the colours of any party on duty, and if they must decide a tie, it is traditionally done by coin toss. They are not political appointees, or members of any party.
They get one-way information from the tax people (and do not share information back). As soon as an election is called, they send a card to every address that reads “These are the people who are registered to vote at this address. Here are the times and locations of the places to vote, both in advance and on election day. If you live here, and aren’t listed on this card, here’s how to get registered to vote, even on election day.” If you aren’t on the card, it’s usually as simple as showing up where the card tells you to, with a piece of ID that says you are you, and anything that says you live where you do. A bill, a lease, I know someone who voted with a blockbuster card. You also have to take an oath that you really do live there, and aren’t going to vote twice in two places, i.e. commit election fraud.
For people without ID, there are many options, including allowing someone who is registered to sign an affidavit swearing that the person is entitled to vote in that riding. I did that once, a friend had moved in with me for 3 weeks between the end of her lease and moving to Europe. She didn’t have any bills or mail, so we just walked down to the poll, and I promised she lived with me at that moment in time. I signed a paper, she signed a paper, that was it, she could vote. Homeless people can vote with a letter from a shelter or drop in center they frequent.
Absentee voting can be done by mail, or by dropping in to a central returning office in advance. All those details are on the card that gets mailed to everyone at the start, and Elections Canada also buys a lot of advertising to help people learn about their voting options.
I registered this fall to vote on election day. But I have a stalker that works for a political party, and I didn’t want my new address to show up attached to my name on the register, because the parties have access to it. Luckily, they have plans for that. While I could show up, prove I live here, and get a ballot, I could also check a box to be kept OFF the permanent register. It just means I need to bring my ID and a proof of address every time I vote, instead of just the ID.
An apolitical, impartial, well-funded organization dedicated to making sure everyone who can vote does, and every vote is counted fairly. It can happen. It does happen. It’s scandalous that it doesn’t happen in the USA.
Great idea! (So good that after several years of lurking it finally inspired me to comment.)
And guess what? This may not be anything sinister – probably isn’t considering that New Jersey is one of the bluer states – but when I tried to verify my registration, I was presented with a message saying “This section of the website is currently undergoing maintenance and will be available in mid-January.”
I used to be registered. I was registered as of November 2018. Right now? A definite maybe.
You can bet I’ll be rechecking in a few weeks.
You can order the voter to register (for life), but you can’t make the voter vote. Not for all the free shit in the world.
Stacy Abrams (who should be the current Gov of Georgia but isn’t because of the exact voter issues that John talks about) is running this initiative to promote free and fair elections. I volunteer with them and have spent some time canvassing and registering voters door-to-door. I encourage others to get involved as well.
I moved to Idaho Falls last year and was pleasantly surprised that in this deep red state, they have same-day voter registration at the polling place.
Just wondering: Assuming there are any new voter roll purges before the election, do you plan to write posts about them and/or update the note in the sidebar?
Regardless, thanks! Just checked my registration.
Always voted. Voted absentee ballot the six years I was resident in Canada.
Pedro: Australia manages somehow. (You can be fined up to $80 AUS for failing to show up at the polls.)
On point #2 for why someone may not want everyone to vote, I can only write anecdotally from some former coworkers:
They don’t want everyone to vote because they don’t think other people are smart enough (Or informed enough) to vote.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the two who I know that are against universal registration are not only die-hard GOP voters, but strong Trump supporters, and incredibly racist once you break through their polite staff work shell. They are also the same people who think anyone in prison should lose voting privileges for life.
It’s bullshit. Always has been bullshit. It’s only so their party can stay in power.
I don’t care what a person Has done in life, who their parents are, or what their personal beliefs are. Nothing you do, even permanently moving to a foreign country, should have you lose your right to vote. It should be illegal and literally impossible for anyone to disenfranchise another.
This includes the blatantly transparent tactics of “cleaning voter rolls” and other BS that accidentally hits a disproportionate amount of a single voting block.
I make a point of trying to read a variety of political thought and commentary, and the idea that one party is more racist than the other is something I find a depressingly common fallacy. In my experience, spending the last 30 years in widely different parts of the country, the vast vast majority of people are avowedly anti-racist, while at the same time they still struggle with their own failings and prejudices and loudly proclaim their political opponents as being much more racist. There’s a Farrakhan for every Duke.
There are enough credible examples of systemic racism AND enough credible excuses on either side of the political spectrum to confirm whatever bias one prefers. Confirmation bias is a sneaky and insidious thing. Careful and diligent scientists, economists and statisticians have to constantly guard and ward against it, are trained against it, and they still get tripped up by it.
I like our host’s idea about registration. We are in a Nationwide process of upgrading our Driver’s Licenses to a definitive standard of identification through the Real ID Act. One’s Real ID should be one’s voter registration. Problem basically solved. Those that cant or don’t drive can still get Real IDs.
Overseas voters register January 1st of each Federal Election.
YOUR VOTE IS YOUR VOICE
There’s a Farrakhan for every Duke.
1. Louis Farrakhan is not a member of the Democratic Party.
2. Even if he was, he has not been elected to anything by the Democrats (unlike, say, Duke).
3. In 2008, Barack Obama disavowed Farrakhan and criticized his positions.
4. In 2016, Farrakhan came out in support of Donald Trump.
Any “voter ID” setup is unnecessary. Actual cases of foreign residents voting or double voting are so infrequent as to make literally no difference whatsoever to elections.
What really helps people vote is – election day being a holiday, workplaces allowing it to be a holiday, more polling places, ride sharing and mail-in ballots, neighborhood canvassing reminding people when election day is, and offering to register them, and re-enfranchising people who were jailed.
Anyone talking about “Elections security” and proposing voter ID to get it is trying to suppress voters. It’s that simple.
Registered. Will do my own thing
It is indeed a fact that voter fraud is only a tiny tiny portion of actual electoral fraud.
If we compare voter fraud to people who are disenfranchised through bureaucracy inefficiencies and complications of the system, etc the best most credible estimates suggest that there are roughly 1.5 cases of voter fraud for every 1.5 million cases of people who are eligible and registered, yet are unable to vote due to various problems in the system ranging from technical and accidental to outright electoral manipulation.
So, people voting multiple times or dead people voting is not a really thing that is a big problem. That being said, I think it needs to be kept that way, so I think reasonable voter I’d and verification is perfectly reasonable and should be expected to protect the integrity and credibility of our elections.
I’m not looking to suppress votes, so you are mistaken in assuming that arguing for voter ID = voter suppression.
There is no reason why it can’t be automatic (I.E. Real ID Driver license) and secure at the same time.
How about a Sharpton then?
How about a Sharpton then?
The Democrats have never elected Al Sharpton to anything.
@ Another Pseudonym:
How about voter ID as expansive as this?
We see fewer cases of voter fraud than the US does, and much much lower disenfranchisement, especially in populations that cannot afford a drivers license.
Another Pseudonym: Sharpton‘s a racial opportunist. He vaulted to prominence with the Tawana Brawley false rape accusation, and he’s never apologized for his slander of Assistant District Attorney Steven Pagone. But to compare him to Farrakhan is nonsense. He’s not a separatist, a race-baiter, a homophobe, or an anti-Semite — all of which apply to Farrakhan.
You are moving the bar here and missing the point. Are we playing a No True Scotsmen Game? Why does a democrat have to be elected to count? Isn’t a charge against Republicans that they kowtow to racists even if they themselves are not? Anyway. Ok. I’ll play. How about Pressley than?
That looks like a reasonable and prudent standard to me. In fact, it’s almost exactly what I’m arguing. Good on Canada.
Are we playing a No True Scotsmen Game?
Nope! We’re testing your proposition that the parties are indistinguishable on race which is, after all, what you asserted, and that for every Republican like David Duke there’s a parallel like…well, as I’ve been pointing out, you haven’t managed a parallel yet. I’m *not* asserting that there aren’t Democrats or left-wingers who hold abhorrent views (which *would* be the No True Scotsmen Game). What I am arguing is that the Democratic Party as a community is so many light years better than the GOP on race that even George Lucas couldn’t get the line of dialogue wrong. To do that, we need to look at the people the two parties have actually tried to and/or put in power. So, while the GOP has nominated and elected most recently Donald Trump, for whom being racist is just one of his impressive list of horrific personality traits, the Democrats have nominated most recently Barack Obama.
So, again, no. Neither Farrakhan nor Sharpton have ever been chosen by the Democratic Party to be anything at all. The GOP has elected Donald Trump.
As to Pressley, she voted against a proposal to boycott Israel and then tweeted “What I heard resounding in community was that voting yes on this resolution affirmed to my constituents raised in the Jewish faith Israel’s right to exist, a view I share as a supporter of a two state solution.” That Pressley?
US house of Representatives GOP – 89% white men 6% white women, 4% everyone else
Dem: 39% white men, 19% white women (roughly 60% of the country is white), 40% everyone else
Hmmm….. which is the old white male party? But of course you knew that already.
Not The Reddit Chris:
Do you think the NBA is more racist than the MLB?
Coincidentally, I’m in a country where it is mandatory to register to vote if you are eligible, though it is not mandatory to vote (New Zealand).
We too are having a general election this year and I am grateful that our politics haven’t gone hyperpartisan & toxic the way it has in American politics. Though worryingly, there are signs of it heading that way.
Another: “How about Pressley than?”
DAVID: “Pressley, she voted against a proposal to boycott Israel”
The notion that a vote against the modern nation of Israel, or any criticism of it, is anti-semetic does not fly.
Again, let’s not make this a general discussion thread about politics, please. My Mallet hand is getting itchy.
John, I’m assuming that if a startlingly similar widget to the one you’ve set up appeared on someone else’s WordPress site, it wouldn’t bother you much. Am I correct in that assumption?
Luther M. Siler:
Indeed you are correct!
No one’s mentioned Belgium?
Automatic registration at 18; election day is always on a Sunday; voting cards go out a few weeks before the election telling the voter where and when to vote; and while submitting a blank ballot (“none of the above”) is permitted, failure to show up at the polling station without having appointed a proxy/being in the hospital or similar serious reason for exemption leaves the voter open to sanctions (haven’t been pursued by prosecutors since 2003, but are still on the books). Participation rate is over 90%.
My wife and I received our new voter’s registration cards in the mail yesterday.
Part of the problem with US voter registration is that there’s no such thing. It’s all handled by the states and the counties therein. Sure, it would be great if you could do it otherwise, but federalism is what we have and it would be an enormous effort to change it.
Carl Sagan said, ““If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.”
If you wish to make voter registration national, you must first re-invent the nation. Or something along those lines.
Um…”In the US, 2020 is likely to be to most significant election in a generation.”
You might want to tweak that a little.
(Yes, I double-checked. I am and I will.)
As a non-American who is rather baffled by this voter registration stuff (but it’s far from the bafflest American thing I’ve heard of), could you explain in simple terms what makes voter registration so fragile you need to check every month to make sure it’s still valid?
Because the GOP is throwing people off voter rolls. As noted in the entry.
I definitely don’t have your reach, but I am going to put something like this on my Facebook every month until Election Day. Thanks for the idea!
Ane, in addition, in many states, voting is not as simple as showing up on the day and proving you have the right to vote (i.e. are a citizen of requisite age and address). If you are not on the register in advance, sometimes over a month in advance, or there is an error in your data, as simple as a hyphenated last name like Smith-Jones being written Smith Jones, they will not allow you to vote.
Oddly, those kinds of errors and voter purges tend to target certain demographics more than others. It is a symptom of allowing partisan politicians free rein to decide how their own elections will be run, instead of apolitical, non-partisan bodies.
Theophylact: My quick research indicates that implementation of mandatory voting in Australia required about 50 years from time of first advocacy to enactment in 1924. In the United States, we do not have mandatory voting at any level. American interest in mandatory voting has been anemic historically, and mandatory voting may even require an amendment to the Constitution to implement.
Obama talked about mandatory voting in 2015, said it was great idea, but whatever interest he generated fizzled. HRC never pushed mandatory voting in any significant way, if at all, in 2016. How many 2020 Democratic presidential candidates advocate mandatory voting? I can’t think of a single one.
Most Americans just don’t like being told what to do by government. Besides, who wants to pay a reverse poll tax? Wouldn’t that be like taxing people for not buying health insurance? We did that for a few years, until the Republicans won it all in 2016 and fried the Obamacare mandate from high orbit in December 2017.
John’s idea of registering everyone to vote once and for life strikes me as a much more feasible objective, but even in this case the objective is to prevent disenfranchisement, not ensure robust levels of voter participation. That said, Supreme Court precedent enables the U.S. states to purge lazy voters from the rolls. If memory serves, Ohio election practices were the focal point in that particular case.
There are many other ways to encourage turnout without making voting mandatory.
When I worked for Elections Quebec on the last provincial election, I was initially selected to be part of a team that went to people’s homes and hospital rooms with a ballot box. If they had a medical issue that made getting to a poll difficult, we’d send the poll to them. That’s what it looks like when the goal of the agency is to make sure everyone can vote.
More polls, more accessible in more places in the community, more advance polling days, broader definitions of acceptable ID, easier registration (especially in-person, day-of), easy to understand voting guides in as many languages as possible, every single thing that makes voting easier and more convenient will increase turnout. Those are the government-provided things. Maybe you can’t fix those things without burning your voting system to the ground and starting from scratch. Maybe. I’m unconvinced.
But as I noted in my first comment, volunteers on a political campaign can also do a lot. Help with childcare, transport, build a website that tracks wait times at various polling locations around your district, help people in neighbourhoods with low internet access get the information they need by knocking doors or dropping leaflets. When you hear the phrase “voting is the bare minimum” these are some of the things you could be doing above that minimum.
Get involved. Your life gets a lot more interesting when you start replacing the first word in the phrase “Someone should do something about that.” with the letter “i”
Eric and John: In addition to the thoughts that Liz brings, It turns out that the IRS and the credit bureaus are pretty good at keeping track of your various addresses. The IRS even undertakes some complex math to ensure that you are paying the correct tax rates for your various addresses. Maybe we could fund them better and extend that data gathering to the voting and census system, though I acknowledge there are some challenges in accomplishing that kind of data sharing.
I love this. :D
Hi, John, and sorry for being an insufferable pedant, but I just can’t help myself: your site tagline wasn’t “this site mocks fascists”, it was “this machine mocks fascists”. (Does it help a little to note that I get the Woody Guthrie riff?)
In 2018, I had to file a provisional ballot because my voter registration information had somehow been reverted to a previous address I hadn’t lived in for over 7 years. Even (I’m assuming) without malice, mistakes happen and it’s not a bad idea to periodically verify your information’s accuracy. In my state, this can be done easily online in less than a minute, and corrected easily online in a few minutes more. An ounce of prevention and all that.
A decade or two ago, a corporate lobbying group called ALEC went to a bunch of Republican state legislatures and convinced them they should put in Voter ID laws to make it harder for poor people, minorities, and the non-driving elderly to vote, because such people primarily vote Democrat, not Republican, and suddenly the GOP had decided that National ID Cards, instead of being a Commie Evil Thing as they’d preached for years, were now something every sensible American should be in favor of.
In the past few years, including this year, GOP-controlled state legislatures and election bureaucrats have been using lots of dubious information sources to kick suspected Democrats\\\\\\\\inaccurate records off the voter rolls; I’ve heard people on Twitter saying they’d been registered to vote the previous year and were now no longer registered and had to go do it again. So GO CHECK.
(And yes, it’s unlikely and mostly irrelevant that YOUR state hasn’t done this to you, if you’re in California or Oregon etc, because the Democrat-controlled states aren’t actively trying to kick potential Democrats off the rolls. If you’re in a swing state or GOP-dominated state, please GO CHECK, and check again before the deadline.)
Just a brief note that although every adult U.S. citizen should be allowed to vote, some of them aren’t legally allowed to register. Nationally all but 2 states bar some citizens from voting due to interaction with the criminal injustice system. 2.5% of voting-age citizens are disenfranchised. That’s over 10% in some states. For male African-American citizens in some states it’s close to half the population.
Okay, disclaimer: Australian.
My position on voting is very straightforward: it’s your civic duty, you owe it to yourself, you owe it to your fellow citizens, and in my country at least, you’re going to get fined if you don’t do it. Plus, of course, Australia has the Democracy Sausage thing happening.
Might I recommend the Democracy Sausage to the folks in the USA? Get the school’s P&C (or whichever charitable group wants to organise it) to be holding a sausage sizzle / cake stall just outside your nearest polling place on election day, offer a $1 discount on the cost of a sausage inna bun for people who can show their “I Voted” sticker, and watch the folks roll up. Start during the Primaries, and work your way through things… it’s a way of raising money for your cause, and it’s certainly a way of encouraging people to rock up and cast their ballots.
[Deleted because steadfastly ignoring the political realities of which party currently is the home to the racists is tedious bullshit, and otherwise this post was mostly off-topic — JS]
[Deleted for responding to a deleted comment. Don’t worry, moisturefarmer, you’re fine — JS]
Wondered if you might post some info for people who struggle with the usual registration process, eg because of lack of address or change or because they need to keep their address hidden eg because of escaping domestic abuse as part of your campaign?
Here in the UK there’s been more info about this in this last election but the process is still bullshit hard for abuse survivors particularly.
Sorry, I haven’t read all the comments – hope I haven’t doubled up.
This is really an important idea, as getting more people voting is the best way to have a representative democracy. But… we can still mock fascists, right?
Thank you for this! As an avid Postcarder since 2017, when That Happened, I’ve been working on GOTV via postcards in many states, but especially “those states”, (like Florida, for example.)
I would also like to note that the League of Women Voters is typically a great resource for voter registration drives, educational outreach, and pretty much all things voting. They are non-partisan and have been at this for a very long time:
This reminds me of that TV comedy about aliens on the third rock from the sun. After a comedy of errors for a half hour spent at the Department of Motor Vehicles, trying to register a car, an alien says, “Wow, imagine if we had been trying to register a gun.”
…Yes, and imagine citizens trying to register for “the draft.” (conscription, aka universal military training)
@Sean Crawford – you mean you’re not registered with the US Government under the Selective Military Service Act? All men between 18-25 should be (small carve outs do apply)
Might I recommend the Democracy Sausage to the folks in the USA? Get the school’s P&C (or whichever charitable group wants to organise it) to be holding a sausage sizzle / cake stall just outside your nearest polling place on election day, offer a $1 discount on the cost of a sausage inna bun for people who can show their “I Voted” sticker, and watch the folks roll up.
Roll up to commit a federal crime, I note, carrying a maximum sentence of two years in prison.
I’m pretty sure that if you register to vote you’re also put on the active list for jury duty. Not a bad things for most people, but if you’re like me and have severe social anxiety and the thought of being on a jury is unthinkably appalling, keep this in mind. Otherwise I completely encourage others to register and to vote, and if you’re already registered you might as well make your voice heard. Just wanted to put this up as FYI for certain people.
There actually ARE at least bipartisan organizations devoted to voter registration (and to a well-counted census too). Stacey Abrams runs @fairfightaction and @faircount with a Republican cohort, out of GA. It’s just that they don’t get sufficient publicity with old white men running legacy media for enough people to know about them to follow them & help them.
I do wish some of the other commenters whom I will not name would stop behaving as though John Roberts didn’t give the current #GangOfPutin-controlled states free leave to actively suppress minority votes in their states by gutting §5 of the Voting Rights Act
Judicial Watch Finds Millions of ‘Extra’ Registrants on Voting Rolls – Warns California, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Colorado, Virginia to Clean Up Voting Rolls or Face a Federal Lawsuit
“Satan Laughing” (you wish):
“Founded in 1994, JW has primarily targeted Democrats, in particular the Presidency of Bill Clinton, the Presidency of Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton. The organization has described climate science as “fraud science” and has filed lawsuits against government climate scientists. JW has made numerous false and unsubstantiated claims that have been picked up by right-wing news outlets. Courts have dismissed the vast majority of its lawsuits.”
IOW, you’re quoting, as you no doubt know, a propaganda outlet. Peddle it elsewhere.
There actually ARE at least bipartisan organizations devoted to voter registration (and to a well-counted census too). Stacey Abrams runs @fairfightaction and @faircount with a Republican cohort, out of GA. It’s just that they don’t get sufficient publicity with old white men running legacy media for enough people to know about them to follow them & help them.
I do wish some of the other commenters whom I will not name would stop behaving as though John Roberts didn’t give the current #GangOfPutin-controlled states free leave to actively suppress minority votes in their states by gutting §5 of the Voting Rights Act …
Why is someone (Satan Laughing) quoting “Judicial Watch” here?
They’re like the Breitbart of Twitter.
[Deleted because we’re waaay off topic at this point, so let’s table this particular line of discussion; also, sub rosa to the regular who is posting under this sock puppet name: What are you doing, bro? — JS]
Disenfranchisement is the GOP way these days. Kicking democrats off registration rolls.
Gerrymandering democrats out of representation in the house (“In North Carolina… Republican candidates received 51 percent of the two-party vote compared to Democrats’ 49 percent. Yet Republicans won a 9-3 seat advantage over Democrats” link)
And supporting the electoral college which has given the presidency twice to two shithead republican presidents even though the Democrat candidate got more votes. link
Voter registration can help overcome GOP throwing Dems off the rolls, but gerrymandering needs to be ended somehow, and the electoral college helped slave states run the presidency and now helps the GOP get the office even though they have a far less supported candidate.
Fixing gerrymandering is tough mathematics, but the electoral college will be ditched by republicans the moment it stops supporting them and starts helping dems. Give Peurto Rico statehood could swing the EC towards dems and piss off repubs enough that they want to ditch it too.
Tldr: democracy in the US needs some updating.
It’s a New Moniker to go with the New Year!
M, I don’t think I’ve conveyed how appalling I find the need for such things. I think our host and Ms. Abrams and her colleagues are very laudable for doing something as private citizens that the government should be taking care of, and more people in the US should follow their example, and I’ll do everything I can to support them without backing any particular candidate or party (as a foreigner, I shouldn’t). But please do not consider it an end in and of itself. It’s a bandaid on a broken leg. It’s similar to saying “we know the fire department doesn’t show up to house fires, so we’re buying garden hoses” or “we don’t need universal health care, we’ve got GoFundMe.”
And registration is actually one of the lesser problems. Ms. Abrams opponent in her last contest was the one in charge of counting the ballots. George W. Bush’s campaign manager for Florida was the one counting the Florida ballots in 2000. Why weren’t there UN election monitors? Tinpot dictatorships have more oversight.
And bipartisan is not the same as nonpartisan or apolitical.
Please, if you live in the USA, keep applying these bandaids. Work to register people and get the vote out. But don’t forget that the overall picture is much bigger. It’s systemic. Form follows function, and the function of a political candidate running the election is to get their own party elected. All else flows from that.
David, what law is broken by selling food outside of polls?
Nancy, I know party and candidate driven or supporting efforts need to keep a certain distance from the polls (due to voter intimidation laws, put in place around the same time as the move to a secret ballot). It’s possible he didn’t know that Sausage Sizzles are traditionally apolitical and nonpartisan.
In the USA, voter mobilization/suppression efforts have been breaking along party lines in recent years, but that isn’t the case historically, or in other countries.
I’m pretty sure that if you register to vote you’re also put on the active list for jury duty. Not a bad things for most people, but if you’re like me and have severe social anxiety and the thought of being on a jury is unthinkably appalling, keep this in mind.
You’re also put on the active list for jury duty if you get a driver’s license, so this is an unbelievably dumb reason not to register to vote.
@John: Most excellent post and site updates and plan! Being complacent, I was like, meh I’m in a state that’s Not Like That. Then after I closed this page, I was like, “Self, it’s stupid not to take a minute and check anyway,” so I made sure I’m still registered and the info’s correct. Your link to my state’s superb tool to make sure. :-) Thanks!
It’s against federal law to give or receive compensation for voting. It’s not the food, it’s the discount. 18 US 597.
Since I don’t vote in the ‘local’ elections – I rent and don’t really keep up with town politics – it’s nice to have a tool that allows me to check my voter registration status. I urge everyone to bookmark the site that keeps them current where they live. Thanks
As to ‘general’ politics and the practice thereof, this little book by some old SF writer is pretty informative –
“A ballot is just a substitute for a bullet. If your vote isn’t backed by a bullet, it is meaningless. Without the bullet, people could ignore the election outcome. Voting would be pointless. Democracy has violence at its very core!” ~Muir Matteson, “The Nonviolent Zone”
If I did business in the same manner as government does, and forced strangers to give me money, would you consider me a criminal?
Are you or your “representatives” threatening someone with an initiation of violence today?