Jim Crawford: Keeping voting systems as accessible as possible
Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 28, 2023
This week, Pennsylvania becomes the 24th state to adopt Automatic Voter Registration nationwide.
It is a common-sense approach to protecting our elections and expanding those eligible to vote. And that is precisely the reason why most Republicans hate AVR. Republicans have dedicated their efforts in multiple states to restricting access to the voting booth and increasing voter fraud investigations.
One party seeks a more participative democracy. The other party fears more voters will cost them elections.
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There is only one path forward, though, as history must bend to more people participating in governing the nation if we survive as a free people.
AVR increases the numbers of younger voters and disabled voters while using DMV statistics to affirm age, residency and citizenship under Pennsylvania’s new law. Those who elect not to participate can actively opt out of registering as a voter.
All others are automatically registered and able to vote in the next election.
When combined with other methods of supporting voter participation, like “no question” access to mail-in ballots, same-day registration and extended counting deadlines, the number of voters will, as indicated in the 2020 election, grow as the population grows, free of laws that want nothing more than to disenfranchise voters across the nation.
That most of the states that have adopted are Democratic-led states should not be surprising.
Republican-led states have opted for an entirely different approach to protecting democracy. In Florida, the Republican governor, with the support of a wholly compliant Republican legislature, created a voter fraud police force.
What are the results of the 2020 election? Twenty citizens were arrested for voter fraud for casting ballots they were told by the Florida Secretary of State they were eligible to cast.
The state later refused to allow freed felons from voting and arrested those who had received mail-in ballots and had used them to vote.
Ohio just this month dumped ERIC, the Electronic Registration Investigative Center, a voter integrity tool more than 30 states used to identify dual-state voting and provide lists of potential voters to be registered.
Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, running as a Trump MAGA candidate for the U.S. Senate, rejected ERIC for its intent to help register new voters. LaRose reacted to Trump’s false claim that ERIC was a Democratic partisan tool because it sought to register new voters.
Consequently, LaRose, in a successful attempt to spite his nose with his face, lowered Ohio’s voting booth security to appease the extremist element of the Republican Party.
Likewise, Ohio and several other Republican-led states have done all they can to restrict or altogether end direct democracy, the citizen-led ballot initiatives.
In Ohio, this May, the Republican legislature held a special election solely to raise the threshold of citizen initiatives from 50 percent to 60 percent, all hoping to kill a constitutional change to protect Ohioan’s abortion rights. There is little doubt that Republicans believe that voters are the problem, and they want to pick who can vote and who cannot vote.
Josh Shapiro, Pennsylvania’s new governor, has it right: America needs to make voting easy, accessible, and as participative as possible.
The best protection for our republic is to stand with those seeking a more competitive democracy where all can voice their thoughts at the ballot box, free of constraints and political chicanery.
Jim Crawford is an award-winning columnist, retired educator and political enthusiast living here in the Tri-State.