We need to fix what wasn't broken
Over the four years since the 2008 presidential election, and especially since the 2010 mid-term elections, legislatures in 19 states adopted an array of 25 laws that were meant to suppress voter turnout. The list ranged from Pennsylvania's unnecessary voter ID law, which we've talked about many times in this editorial space, to limited early voting and voter registration restrictions in other states.
Most of those laws were thwarted by the courts for a variety of reasons, but they generated a much higher level of procedural scrutiny than in a typical election. The doubt and confusion sown by the laws, even where they weren't fully in force, also contributed to extremely long voting lines in many jurisdictions.
As he thanked voters who endured those hours-long waits to cast their ballots, President Obama declared on election night that the nation needs "to fix that."
He's right. And, fortunately, there's a ready-made template to accomplish it, thanks to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University's law school.
Many election-day problems around the country resulted from preceding issues regarding voter registration, including excessively aggressive purges of rolls in some states, technical computer problems, delayed inclusion of newly registered voters on local lists, failure to account for voters who had moved, and so on.
The Brennan Center plan relies on systems used in some states and in other democratic countries. It would eliminate paper-based registration, require automatic registration of people who are on other government lists, automatic portability of voter registration information when people move, enable voters to correct information before elections, eliminate redundancy and prevent fraudulent registrations by checking them against other available information.
Most states already have some of those features within their systems. In Great Britain, which has all of them, 90 percent of people of voting age automatically have been registered, participation rates are high and fraud is rare.
Mr. Obama should adopt the Brennan Center template as he seeks reform. And, he should advocate uniform software and a national clearinghouse for information on voter machines to prevent break-downs and provide for rapid remedies to technical problems that arise on election day.
The country has the technology "to fix that." The question is whether lawmakers have the political will to do so.