In addition to creating an environment for fraud, this deluge of registration forms right around registration deadlines overwhelms election officials and takes our attention away from other critical election functions.
The integrity of our election system requires an automated voter registration process that is accurate, permanent and secure. A modernized system would serve voters better and save states money by streamlining the process, substantially reducing or eliminating paper and minimizing administration costs. Voters also should have the opportunity to check online or in person to ensure they are properly registered in advance of the election.
Some states are moving in this direction and already are seeing significant cost savings. Delaware began registering voters automatically at its motor vehicle departments at the beginning of this year and already has cut more than $200,000 in personnel costs from its voter registration system.
In Arizona, which recently started registering voters online, the costs of registration fell from 83 cents for processing a paper voter registration form to 3 cents for processing an online application.
The Internal Revenue Service and state tax boards seem to know where to find us every year, yet the current voter registration system requires each of us to file a new registration form when we move or risk losing our vote. The process is particularly problematic for military and other voters overseas, who frequently change addresses but don't have the time or ability to update their registrations.
Both the government and individuals must assume responsibilities in the democratic process. Government should be responsible for updating voter rolls as citizens' addresses or statuses change, but individual voters still will be responsible for showing up to vote - that would not be automated.
Furthermore, a substantially automated system would mean we would verify the eligibility of voters better than we do now. Voters who show up in the databases of social service agencies, for example, already have proved their citizenship.
In addition to saving states money, automating voter registration would get rid of ACORN and ensure that only eligible citizens get on the rolls.
Furthermore, modernization would have the added advantage of making many of the provisions of the burdensome and erratically enforced National Voter Registration Act (the "motor voter" law) obsolete.
Americans can no longer afford to ignore this problem of an antiquated voter registration system. Now is the time for reform - with support from both parties - before the politics of the next election cycle render it impossible.
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