The tug-o’-war between Republicans and Democrats taking place in Congress and in state legislatures over voting laws is over politics (and self-preservation), not public policy.
Democrats contend they want to ease voting restrictions so no eligible voter is disenfranchised while Republicans oppose the effort contending it will promote voter fraud.
Each stand would seem to be reasonable, yet neither are at the heart of why this has become such a contentious issue. Democrats believe fewer restrictions on election day will result in more votes for Democratic candidates. Republicans believe they are right — and don’t want to see Democrats get more votes.
It’s time for both sides to concede their selfish agendas in establish voting regulations that are said to promote participation or prevent fraud.
Washington state has been fortunate that its recent chief election officers — secretaries of state Ralph Munro and Sam Reed to current Secretary of State Kim Wyman — have taken nonpartisan approaches to boosting voter turnout and enacting reforms when fraud or abuse is found. Munro and Reed, both Republicans, took hits from fellow Republicans because they tried to do what was best for the public, not what was perceived to be best for GOP candidates. Wyman, a Republican serving in her first term, is following in the footsteps of her predecessors.
Registering to vote should be easy and so should casting a ballot.
Citizens should have ample opportunity to register. Registrations should be accepted daily at set locations (such as a courthouse, post office and driver’s license office) and special voter-registration drives should be allowed at events.
Polling places need to be conveniently located and open long enough to accommodate all who want to vote. Or, as is the case in Washington and Oregon, elections could be conducted by mail.
Closing polling places early or putting them in a location that would require most to drive is clearly wrong. It makes it tough for those who don’t have flexible jobs or access to transportation to vote.
And since only U.S. citizens can vote, requiring some proof of citizenship at the time of registration is reasonable. So is making sure the voters are who they say they are. Mandating a legitimate piece of ID — a state driver’s license or state-issued ID cards or a valid passport — is not an onerous threshold.
Election laws that serve the public can be enacted. Those elected to Congress and state legislatures know, if they are honest with themselves, what is reasonable.