Registering to vote is a special, sacred gift often paid for with blood, that should be revered. American men and women have fought and died on battlefields across the world to preserve and protect our constitutional republic’s freedom to vote. National Voter Registration Day is a vital reminder for us to highlight the proper perspectives on voter registration and celebrate accurate, transparent, and accountable voter registration and voter rolls.
Our Nation should emphasize many democratic principles on this important day. First, eligible Americans should take the initiative to exercise the opportunity provided them by registering to vote. Voluntary participation in registering and voting is important, but systems like Automatic Voter Registration (AVR) denigrate this right. AVR is in place in 23 states. In those states, the state government automatically registers a person to vote, regardless of whether or not that person wants to register, when they interact with a state government agency. The most common example is when you go to your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to get a driver’s license and you aren’t registered to vote at your new address. Even though you didn’t ask, and you may not want to, you are automatically registered to vote because of your interaction with the DMV. You didn’t make the choice; the state government made it for you.
The right to vote has been defended in battle by our bravest men and women, and all potential voters have the right to decide their level of participation in the process— no federal or state government should make that decision for them. Registering to vote is a unique privilege; it should not be ignored, but it should not be something forced onto the American people by the government.
Second, American citizens, and American citizens ONLY, should be allowed to vote in American elections. The idea of allowing non-U.S. citizens to vote goes against our Constitution and against the principle of one legal vote by one legal U.S. citizen. Unfortunately, jurisdictions across the country, including New York City, the District of Columbia, and San Francisco, have extended the right to vote to foreign nationals. This is dangerous and undermines the very notion of what the privilege to be an American citizen means. Non-citizen voting disenfranchises legal immigrants who are now U.S. citizens and have earned this right. It also disenfranchises Black Americans whose votes are wiped out altogether, especially in urban areas where high levels of illegal immigrants' vote. From the Civil War and Reconstruction to the civil rights movement of the 1960s, Black Americans fought to have equal representation at the ballot box. My recent op-ed in the Washington Times addresses this fight in detail.
Third, elected officials responsible for the administration of elections should ensure we never have a situation where there are more registered voters than people eligible to register to vote. That’s common sense but achieving this result has not been so common. For example, in Arizona, four counties have voter registration rates higher than their populations—an impossibility. Elected officials responsible for elections administration can avoid this situation by cleaning up their voter rolls. Regular voter roll maintenance is critical for protecting legitimate voters, as it removes names of voters who have passed away or who have moved out of the state.
Fourth, states should use registration processes that are lawful, transparent, and accountable. A clear example of a state violating the trust of its voters occurred recently in Wisconsin and was exposed by the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty. The Institute won a lawsuit against the Wisconsin Election Commission (WEC) after WEC was discovered to be using a National Mail Voter Registration Form that it had never lawfully adopted and that failed to meet statutory requirements. This means the use of the form in Wisconsin was unlawful.
For these reasons, as well as others, American confidence in elections is in decline. In 2004, confidence in elections rested at 74%. Declining in 2008 to 59%, it rose to 66% in 2016 and then fell again to 59% in 2020. 72% of people on the Left believe the debunked theory that Russia caused the wrong person to be declared the winner of the presidency in 2016, and 53% of people on the right believe the wrong person was declared the winner of the presidency in 2020. The faith, trust, and confidence in elections has been eroding for decades, and by becoming a citizen who willingly participates in elections, you can help fix a deeply flawed voter registration system.
On this National Voter Registration Day, everyone eligible to register should register. They should do it themselves, not have some faceless governments do it for them via AVR. Those eligible should then exercise their American privilege and cast a ballot. And they should do so knowing it shows an abiding appreciation for the country that grants them that sacred individual voice and honors those who gave the ultimate sacrifice defending that right. One registered voter, casting one vote, counted only once. That’s something to sign up for and celebrate.
Ken Blackwell is the Chairman of the Center for Election Integrity at the America First Policy Institute and is the former Secretary of State of Ohio.