The Biggest Issues With America’s Voting System
Voter suppression in America is an ongoing issue that primarily affects people of color, married women, homeless, disabled or low-income voters, students, the elderly and transgender women.
While the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed as a way to ensure that all men and women 21 years of age and older could vote regardless of their race, education level or religion, several significant changes have occurred since the passing of this law.
In 1974, for instance, the minimum voting age was lowered to 18 years of age. In 1993, the National Voter Registration Act was passed to provide Americans with the option to vote at public assistance centers and local Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) offices.
However, by 2000, residents of Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands lost their right to vote in U.S. elections — even though they pay federal taxes.
How Prevalent is Voter Fraud?
In recent years, Republican lawmakers in 14 U.S. states have put new voter restrictions in place to prevent fraudulent activities from occurring at the polls. While the Republican Party has argued that it sets these restrictions solely to prevent fraud and not to suppress voters, these justifications haven’t been very convincing.
While these requirements vary by state, several of these new voter restrictions include:
- The need for a voters registration card or an acceptable form of photo- or- non-photo identification.
- The need to change voting address details so that this information matches the address on a voter’s driver’s license.
In fact, multiple studies on voter fraud show that it is not as common as the Republican Party might make it seem.
According to a 2014 study that was published in The Washington Post, only 31 credible cases of impersonation fraud occurred between 2000 and 2014. Other studies have shown similar results, suggesting that impersonation fraud is not a major concern in U.S. elections.
With this in mind, we’re all left to wonder: Are these administrative laws and rules really necessary?
In the event that voter fraud does occur, political scientists at Columbia University say that these instances are usually the result of a voter or administrative error, mischief, or the false claims of a losing party. In North Carolina, for example, the 9th Congressional District house election results were tainted in 2018 by a fraudulent absentee ballot. Because of this, the state held a special election on Sept. 10. 2019.
Ongoing Voter Suppression Tactics
As a result, these restrictive laws have reduced voter turnout and made the process of voting more difficult for many U.S. citizens.
During the senate races 2018, for instance, nearly six million American citizens could not vote due to a prior felony conviction. Moreover, voters in Nevada, North Dakota and Georgia were restricted from voting in the 2018 senate races—some experts argue that it’s largely because they were minorities with mostly Democratic views.
Experts at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) are working to simplify the voting process to increase voter turnout. However, voter suppression remains an ongoing issue in the U.S., especially for targeted groups, such as minorities.
A Complicated Voter Registration Process
In order to register to vote in America, you sometimes need to complete a lengthy voter registration process. In states such as Georgia, the information on your registration application must match the details on your state-issued driver’s license and Social Security records, or you will not be eligible to vote. In some cases, this complicated registration process may be enough to keep you from exercising your right to vote.
According to a study conducted by Pew Research Center, approximately 24 percent of the eligible U.S. population were not registered to vote in 2012—likely because of this lengthy registration process. While many other countries automatically register their citizens to vote, this is not the case in the United States.
Even when voters register to vote online, in person or by mail before heading to the polls, they still have to visit their local polling station in order to cast their ballot and present a valid form of identification. For those who work a full-time job, this means heading to the polls first thing in the morning or after a long day at work.
Moreover, voters have to check voter registration information for errors prior to Election Day. While the steps to take to check your voter registration status will vary depending on the state in which you live, you can typically verify your registration status and make any necessary changes online, by mail or by telephone.
Failure to Make the 2020 Presidential Election a National Holiday
Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders for Democrats 2020 is just one of the many lawmakers who hope to make Election Day a national holiday. While Election Day is already a paid holiday for state workers in 13 U.S. states, such as Hawaii and New York, many experts believe that making Election Day a national holiday for all Americans could help to increase voter turnout.
According to the United States Census Bureau, approximately 14.3 percent of the 19 million registered voters that failed to vote in the 2016 election said that they did not vote due to the high demands of their daily lives.
Even if voters can pre-register to vote prior to Election Day, long lines at the polls, transportation costs, employment constraints and various other factors often prevent Americans from exercising their right to vote. As such, making Election Day a national holiday would make the process easier for millions of Americans.
Approximately 71 percent of Democrats and 59 percent of Republicans would support this change if it were to occur, according to a poll conducted by Pew Research Center.
However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell —who is running in the 2020 senate elections— doesn’t believe that Election Day should be a national holiday. According to McConnell, this is simply a “power grab” from Democrats.
Issues with the Plurality Voting System
While some Democratic presidential candidates 2020 support the use of alternative voting methods, the plurality system is the default voting technique that the United States uses. However, many experts agree that America’s voting system needs improvement, as plurality voting often forces Americans into voting for the “lesser-evil party” simply because their favorite candidate is deemed “unwinnable.” Additionally, ballot spoilage is common in plurality voting.
Approval voting is one popular alternative to the plurality method, as this technique would provide voters with greater flexibility, allowing them to vote for any number of candidates when casting their ballot.
Additionally, the Center for Election Science says that the approval method would result in an 80 percent decrease in spoiled ballots. To put this into context, nearly two million plurality ballots were spoiled during the 2000 election. This number could drop to 400,000.
Another alternative method is known as ranked choice voting (RCV). While RCV or instant runoff voting (IRV) is not yet used in federal elections, it would provide voters with more options as they cast their votes. In turn, this alternative voting method could lead to more favorable results amongst voters. However, the Center for Election Science says that this voting method would increase ballot spoilage by about seven times.