Living in Minnesota where voting is fair, easy, and quick, I harbor a great deal of pride. I tsk-tsk when hearing about people in other states waiting in “insanely long” lines to vote, being turned away because they’ve been purged from voting rolls, or having their “leaders” attempt to close polling locations so that it’s harder for them to vote.
The growing anti-voting spirit distresses me because of all the foundational concepts I cling to as true in America, one person, one vote is the truest of all. Unravel the expectation that we are all empowered with an equal voice in determining who represents us and watch the country emerge as something far darker than our assumed ideal.
Last week I wrote about the longstanding strategy of Republicans to win elections by creating barriers between voters and voting. The central premise is not new, but it’s timely given the renewed attempts by the power-hoarding class of MAGA-asses attempting to steal political offices in Republican states.
With a high-stakes election looming in less than a month there will be proper attention on states that get voting all wrong, but, for our sanity, we should also keep in sight the states which lead on widening access to the ballot and expanding citizen participation.
Thirteen states have no voter I.D. laws; 37 states allow citizens to vote (in-person) before election day; 17 states allow same-day registration; 27 states allow citizens to mail their ballot without the need of offering an excuse for doing so.
Three states, Oregon, Washington, and Colorado, do all their voting by mail.
Oregon stands out as a leader for being the first to decide it would be best if everyone was automatically registered to vote.
Not only that, Oregonians 16-year-olds and up can pre-register to vote, convicted persons are restored automatically to voting rolls upon release from prison, and new state residents aren’t required to wait for any period before registering.
Californians also have relatively easy voting rules. That state requires no I.D., early voting extends beyond four weeks, and absentee voters don’t need to provide an excuse.
Earlier this year Washington state’s governor Inslee signed into law five bills that together Democrats called Access to Democracy. The rules specifically address the need to protect voting access for racial minorities and the prevalence of dark money in elections.
There are enough states and public servants working for open election systems that we can have hope in the face of attacks on voting. But, we can’t sleep. The wolves are circling the polls.
Back here in Minnesota, where I’m happy to say we support clean civic systems, I know we can’t live on pride forever. Not only do we still have some silly prohibitions (i.e. state law prohibits voters from casting a ballot while wearing clothing related to a campaign, like a T-shirt either supporting or opposing a candidate), from time to time we’re also subject to right-wing attempts to import voter suppression laws pushed by conservative groups in other states.
The message: even in the best states for voting we haven’t achieved election systems that are biased toward full participation and not burdened with any barriers to the vote.
And none of our systems are immune to attempts at curbing democracy.
Want to know more? Check out these resources:
- USA.Gov: Voting and Elections
- Rock The Vote: Understanding Voting Rights
- Bloomberg Politics: States that Make Voting Super Simple – or Stupidly Hard
- Washington Post: How easy is it to vote your state?
- Lifehacker: What to do if you’re turned away at the polls
- VICE: How the gutting of the Voting Rights Act led to hundreds of closed polls
- The Brennan Center: Purges: A Growing Threat to the Right to Vote
- NBC THINK: It’s time for a new Voting Rights Act
- Ben & Jerry’s (yes, the ice cream people): 5 Best and Worst States for Voting