America needs to move out voting's stone age
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Need to sign for your new home mortgage? You can do that online. Want to apply for new credit card line? You can also do that online. Registering to vote? Not so fast.

 

In a world simplified by the internet -- we sign into our bank accounts with a fingerprint, order groceries with a swipe on our smartphones, send money to a relative in Thailand with the click of a button.

But voting just hasn’t advanced so quickly. And the younger you are, the more out of touch it seems. Coming up is a generation of people without home printers, without stamps and envelopes on demand, and who don’t really use the post office.

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Millennials, 69.2 million of them, are now eligible to vote in America, nearly equalling baby boomers in political power. Millennials are now a third of the entire voting population, and yet voting tech has been stuck in the antique shop. In 14 shameful states you need to get a driver’s license, find a printer, print out a form, sign it in person, find stamps and envelopes, find a post office, and mail it to register to vote. You can literally get a mortgage more easily than a voter registration card.

If you want a mortgage, you can legally sign online from your smartphone — no in-person, stamps, envelopes, or post office required.

I love numbers and the numbers don’t lie. In this year’s primary elections, only about 28.5 percent of eligible voters -- citizens of voting age -- voted. On top of that 72 million eligible voters are unregistered, out of 312 million overall.

I want 100 percent voter registration and 100 percent turnout, and that’s what we should all be fighting for. That shouldn’t be a crazy goal — we live in a democracy after all — but it isn’t one you hear often. Once you set 100 percent as your goal, setting voter registration and voting policy suddenly is quite simple.

Do you need a printer to vote in your state? That does not help us get to 100 percent voter turnout.

Do you need stamps and an envelope to vote in your state? If you are a young person in an urban area — you might have to walk two miles to get both, and then another mile to find a post-office box. Plus add $3 to use the printer at a Fedex store in order to print the voter registration form to put in the envelope. This definitely does not help get us to 100 percent voter turnout.

Do you require people to purchase a photo-id from the DMV to vote? Even with automatic voter registration — that still does not get us to 100 percent voter turnout.

Do you require proof of residency AND photo ID to vote — like the state of Wisconsin? Well now you are just suppressing votes, so that definitely does not get us to 100 percent.

The fact is that young people are living differently than older Americans, and every year that digital divide grows.

In the last 33 years, the number of 19 year olds with driver’s licenses dropped 21 percent. As of 2014, only 69 percent of 19-year-olds had licenses compared to 87.3 percent in 1983. The number one reason cited for these declines is the hassle of going to the their local DMV.

When you hear people talking about the need for Photo ID as a voter suppression tactic, that’s why. A lot of 18 year olds have a student ID instead of a DMV-issued ID -- and that isn’t enough to vote in far too many states.

Our current voting laws rely on a bevy of home office infrastructure and bureaucratic processes to make voting accessible — and that is not helping us get people to the polls.

The time has come to structure our voting laws around what gets us to 100 percent turnout. Any other metric is, quite simply, undemocratic.

Voting is easy — it should be easy — and yet we have some not-so- great people out here pushing for one law after another that makes it harder to vote.

Here’s the thing: voter apathy is a myth. People are passionate about the issues, passionate about the process — but our current voting laws make voting one of the most difficult bureaucratic hoops to jump through.

It’s our job, as voters, to fight back by showing up and being heard. But we need to go farther.

The time has come for state legislatures across the country — and specifically in the 14 states without easy online voter registration — to fix it. This is doubly true for Ohio and Florida, two states who passed online voter registration legislation two years ago but completely dropped the ball on implementation.

If you aren’t working to make voting more accessible, you are working against Democracy. There are only two sides here, and it is time to unite around one common goal: 100percent turnout.

Cleaver is the founder and CEO of Vote.org. Follow her on Twitter @debracleaver


 

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