“A Very Democratic Arrangement”

The Frederick News-Post has an editorial  today in favor of the concept of universal voter registration. Smart folks, those FNPers.

One might reasonably ask why someone should be required to register to vote when he or she is already an eligible voter.

Maryland’s process could involve using various databases to identify qualified voters and then automatically registering them to vote. There would be an opt-out provision for those who don’t want to be registered.

Senate Minority Leader J.B. Jennings believes that filling out a registration form is an indication of an informed, committed voter. “Requiring people to register to vote by filling out a single-page form is a simple way to ensure the voters are dedicated enough to do their part” — an indication that they are or will become informed about the issues and the candidates. Isn’t that a bit of a stretch?

If this bill materializes, it may be fashioned after legislation created by Sen. Roger Manno, a Montgomery County Democrat. Manno dismisses out of hand Jennings’ argument that people need to take the initiative to register to vote. “People either have a right to vote or they don’t,” he said. “It’s government’s job to make people’s lives easier and better, not throw up barriers to exercising their rights.”

There are several approaches, including Manno’s, as to exactly how these new voter rolls would be created, and a number of important details to work out, but the basic idea is that eligible voters will be automatically registered by the state without having to fill out a registration form.

Under this idea, people could opt out of being registered if they chose and, of course, could choose not to vote if they please. That sounds like a very democratic arrangement.

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We support universal voter registration in principle and believe if it is carefully conceived and managed it could be a secure and fair system and would bring many more eligible Maryland voters into the electoral process.

This is an important first step, but it’s by no means the end of the process. The ultimate goal should be a vote by mail system - as has been instituted in Oregon, Washington and Colorado with great success and high voter participation - that takes the clunky mid-20th century election machinery and 18th century election mentality out of the process.

But this will be a huge fight - how will Republicans conduct their traditonal voter suppression efforts with a simple, fair, election system in place that allows for maximum participation?

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