Ideological polarity is so strong today that many state legislatures and Washington politicians are rarely finding common ground. One issue that Americans on both sides of the aisle agree on is election reform to increase democracy.
For instance, many on the left cite low voting percentages, especially during odd year elections when state and local elections are held. Democrats seek to expand and protect voting rights to all those who have historically been shutout from participating in the past and present. Many Republicans, including President Trump, believe that voter fraud is compromising our elections and delegitimizing our elections.
For example, states have millions of dead people on voter rolls and many citizens are registered in different states allowing them to vote twice or more. No major political party has a monopoly over the rhetoric of “one person, one vote.” Unfortunately, elected officers’ actions on this issue are compromised by their exclusive support for reforms that are a means to a party’s advantage. Elected officials often suggest improving democratic principles with the aim of helping their party win seats.
A common pattern in modern politics is that higher voting percentages tend to mean higher likelihood a Democrat wins the election. In contrast, low voter-turnouts tend to favor Republican candidates.
Currently, Democrats in congress such as Representative Paul Tonko are backing a bill to move Election Day from the first Tuesday of November to the first weekend. This bill aims to increase recent voter age percentages from above 50 percent in presidential elections and 40 percent in midterm elections.
Additionally, Attorney General of New York Eric Schneiderman (known for prosecuting Trump’s fake University) is supporting a bill in New York to create automatic voter registration, early voting and same-day registration.
In the 2016 presidential general election, New York received 49.6 percent of voting age population, below the national average by 5 percent. Opponents of these measures suggest that in states like New York that are less competitive, the percentage of voters is typically less than national averages.
Additionally, many Republicans may view these liberal voting laws as a way for undocumented voters to undercut our democracy. Voter ID laws are a way to verify the person voting is the person they say they are. The purpose of these laws in states largely run by Republicans is to protect non-citizens or criminals from voting and to restore democratic values.
Recently, President Trump has launched an investigation into the extent of voter fraud. He claims that millions of people voted illegally in the election. There are few facts for claims of voter fraud occurring to the extent that many Republicans believe to stand on. Studies show there is no evidence to suggest millions of people voted illegally and any voter fraud has a negligible effect.
Opponents of Voter ID laws cite studies that show these laws have a larger affect on reducing voting percentages by young people and African-Americans (which tend to vote Democrat) than any other group. Of course, factors that have decayed democratic institutions and American’s faith in democracy such as influence by other countries during campaigns, the outsized role of money in campaigns, gerrymandered districts to favor one party and the Electoral College deserve to be mentioned here. These topics should be inspected for the purpose of completing a full-picture on the state of our democracy.
Lastly, there is little incentive for elected officials to change the system that put them in power. Changing any of the laws regarding to how campaigns are organized and how people vote will inevitably face pushback from elected officials seeking re-election. Hopefully, the two main parties in state and federal government can reform our elections by giving concessions to either side to increase voter participation while protecting against voter fraud, to strengthen our democratic institutions.