Thursday, September 10, 2015

Voter rights and the barriers to voter registration in USA

It is undeniable that while the United States is not the largest democracy in the world, it is one of the most influential. What happens in America has a profound impact all across the globe. And this is why next year's presidential election is so important.

With Barack Obama currently serving his second term as the President of the United States, he is no longer eligible for re-election. Even so, as a Democrat and as an American citizen, he has a vested interest in how the election turns out. More to the point, the President recently published a guest article on Medium discussing the current voter ID laws in the country and how they are hindering the expression of the true American will.

“The right to vote is one of the most fundamental rights of any democracy,” he states before reminding readers that this year marks the 50th anniversary of the singing of the Voting Rights Act - the act that broke down legal barriers and made it easier for African Americans and other minorities to cast a ballot.

However, while all American citizens do have the legal right to vote in the United States, not all have had equal access it. The President points out that there are “still too many barriers to the vote” even today, particularly among minorities.

As President Obama decries, the current “provisions specifically designed to make it harder for some people to vote,” like the restrictive photo ID requirements. His Republican opponents say that these voter ID laws help to reduce or eliminate voter fraud, but the President view these laws as unnecessary barriers that prevent the proper expression of a true democracy.

Because the current requirements can vary so widely from state to state, progress will be difficult and the move toward nationalized standards may be a better option. The first step toward greater voter turnout, which would result in a more representative government, is to get as many eligible voters registered in the first place. This could be aided by the expansion of electronic voter registration, a proposal that is gaining more support each day. An additional option is to link the electronic voter registration to driver's licences for a simpler and more automatic solution.

Looking ahead to the 2016 election, Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton has also spoken out against the restrictive voter ID laws in many states and she continues to be a champion for equal voting rights for all eligible voters. By removing these restrictive barriers and erecting more accessible electronic voter registration systems, more citizens who are current disenfranchised can exercise their democratic right more freely.

For the minorities and other groups who feel like they're being left behind, politics can feel like an “us against them” scenario where they are powerless to elicit change. That cannot and should not be the case. All eligible voters can and should have a voice in how their country is run. And it starts with voter registration.