President Barack Obama emphasized the need to modernize the U.S. election system in his Inaugural Address. One bill to do just that is set to be introduced Wednesday by the civil rights hero Representative John Lewis (D-Ga.) — who knows a thing or two about how to expand democracy.
Under his reform plan, states would have to take responsibility to make sure that every eligible voter is on the rolls. How? By taking existing computerized voter rolls, and expanding them with names voluntarily collected when citizens deal with government — including the Department of Motor Vehicles for drivers’ licenses, the Social Security Administration or other agencies. Any voter could opt in with the click of a mouse.
The proposed bill would bring our antiquated system into the 21st century. The “Voter Empowerment Act,” introduced by Lewis with Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), could transform the way we choose our leaders.
This proposed plan meets the concerns of left and right. It offers a chance for an armistice in the endless trench warfare over voting. Instead of joylessly repeating the same fights over “voter fraud” and potential suppression, here is a reform that helps solve both problems at once.
It would be fairly easy. Voters could correct their record at the polling place on Election Day. Best of all, when voters move, their registration moves with them. No longer would citizens lose eligibility when they change addresses, as happens so often now in our highly mobile society.