May 24, 2009

A Call For Universal Voter Registration

SOMEWHERE BETWEEN 2 and 4 million Americans were unable to vote in the last election because of problems with their registration. And that's just people who tried to vote; in 2006, there were more than 65 million who were eligible to vote, but weren't even registered. That's a third of potential voters.

It doesn't have to be this way. Registration rates in other countries frequently run upwards of 90 percent (both Canada and France hit that mark, for example, while Venezuela stands at roughly 94 percent, and Russia about 97). Now reformers are seizing the moment to use existing law to expand registration, as well as considering new laws that could finally put the United States on an equal footing with many of the world's other democracies.

"That's a pretty staggering number," says Project Vote's executive director Michael Slater of the millions unable to cast a ballot in 2008. "We don't have the egregious problems with voter registration that we had in the past, but it's still a system that's far from perfect and it's still a system that's preventing people from voting in America."

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