Blueprint for a federal takeover of national elections

Some Democrats in the last election had a hard time voting. Republicans, like Secretary of State John Husted of Ohio, worked overtime, using a variety of means—including restricting hours the polls are open, demanding photo IDs, not supplying enough voting machines at polling places—to disenfranchise those living in traditionally Democratic districts. The poor, African Americans, Hispanics, the elderly, and students struggled in states like Ohio and Florida where Republicans continue to use vote suppression as a political strategy for winning elections.

In his post, “Our recent history of “voting wars,” Arthur Lieber reminds us that the right to vote is guaranteed by the federal government. Given how the right to vote is under siege at the state level by the Republican Party, Republican elected officials, and Republican-backed “Protect the Vote” groups—it makes sense that the federal government takeover our national elections.

Jon Green, writing at Americablog, has thought about what that would look like. He calls for the federal government to create “an independent, non-partisan body charged with administering elections.” The following is an edited version of his ideas. For the entire post click here.

The federal non-partisan body would have the following responsibilities:

Universalize Voter Registration

A federal voter registrar should be established to ensure that every eligible citizen is registered to vote somewhereNationalizing and universalizing voter registration would enfranchise millions, resulting in elections that more accurately reflected the will of the people. Moreover, if universal registration were coupled with a national ID card, as it is in many European countries, it would put concerns about voter impersonation fraud to bed.

Standardize the Ballot

A standard ballot, with consistent formatting for all types of races and uniform guidelines for issues such as candidate order, would make it easier for voters to inform themselves and others about what to expect when they show up to vote.

Standardize the Polling Place

It is time to take voting machines out of the hands of partisan Secretaries of State and mandate that each polling location be allocated voting machines and paper ballots proportional to the number of registered voters in that precinct.  And perhaps it’s time we stopped permitting partisans from owning companies that make voting machines, then we could stop worrying about machines that change your vote from Obama to Romney, or about “computer glitches” that suddenly make 1,000 early voters (in a black neighborhood, of course) vanish.

Waiting for all 50 states to pass and enforce meaningful regulations that prevent activities such as these from occurring is a pipe dream at best; federal action is necessary to ensure that voter suppression on this scale is prohibited and prosecuted.

Establish Election Week

To reflect the varying schedules and obligations of our diverse population, many states have increased accessibility to vote by letting citizens vote early. This practice has worked well in the states that have established it, and should be implemented nationwide. While some states offer early voting quite early (Iowans can start casting their ballots more than a month before Election Day), a national voting week would ensure that nobody’s work schedule or weekly routine could prevent them from casting a ballot, while avoiding concerns about whether we’re all really voting in the same election when some of us vote in November, and others in September (thus missing the presidential debates, among other concerns).

Taking the responsibility of administering elections out of the hands of individual states, and setting a clear standard for what an American election should look like, would make our elections freer, fairer and more accurate. After a series of elections fraught with mishaps, federal action is necessary to set things right.