Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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November 2, 2008

REGISTRATION DONE RIGHT.... There's more than a little room for improvement in how we run federal elections in the United States, but the registration process is certainly right up there on the list. Yglesias noted this piece from Rick Hasen on how we could register voters like the rest of the modern democracies on the planet.

The solution is to take the job of voter registration for federal elections out of the hands of third parties (and out of the hands of the counties and states) and give it to the federal government. The Constitution grants Congress wide authority over congressional elections. The next president should propose legislation to have the Census Bureau, when it conducts the 2010 census, also register all eligible voters who wish to be registered for future federal elections. High-school seniors could be signed up as well so that they would be registered to vote on their 18th birthday. When people submit change-of-address cards to the post office, election officials would also change their registration information.

This change would eliminate most voter registration fraud. Government employees would not have an incentive to pad registration lists with additional people in order to keep their jobs. The system would also eliminate the need for matches between state databases, a problem that has proved so troublesome because of the bad quality of the data. The federal government could assign each person a unique voter-identification number, which would remain the same regardless of where the voter moves. The unique ID would prevent people from voting in two jurisdictions, such as snowbirds who might be tempted to vote in Florida and New York. States would not have to use the system for their state and local elections, but most would choose to do so because of the cost savings.

Because some drop out of school before their senior year, the system would have to be slightly more inclusive, but the broader point remains the same. A universal voter registration, established and administered by the federal government, would not only make the voting process easier, but would also eliminate perennial questions about fraud.

Generally, Republicans have been the ones most resistant to these reforms, driven by the belief that if more people are registered and able to participate in the process, Democrats will win more elections. But this is the kind of reform event the GOP can love -- a national voter registration system ends ACORN registration drives and ends legal fights with secretaries of state.

It's no brainer for the next president, regardless of party.

Post Script: Kevin goes a little further, recommending a national ID card and ending the registration process altogether.

Steve Benen 1:30 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (57)

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Yes, a huge new federal voter-registration bureaucracy that aims to enfranchise all those voters the GOP works so tirelessly to remove from the rolls... surely the Republicans will see that as a no-brainer, indeed, but not the no-brainer you're thinking of.

Posted by: MarkC on November 2, 2008 at 1:41 PM | PERMALINK

"Kevin goes a little further, recommending a national ID card and ending the registration process altogether."

Kevin recommends a national ID card for everything. If we found an massive astroid was going to hit the Earth next Friday, Kevin would recommend a national ID card to stave off the big, hurtling mass o' space rock. Forgetting the "Present your papers, Citizen" angle, I distrust anything that competes with (and in Kevinspace, exceeds) String Theory as the One True Answer to All Problems

Posted by: Phalamir on November 2, 2008 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

Do you have any idea how many people could not prove their citizenship of this country if they had to do it today? A lot.

All Americans should make sure they have their original birth certificate, naturalization certificate or a passport.

Posted by: Haik Bedrosian on November 2, 2008 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK

I just heard Obama remind folks in Ohio (on CNBC, during his speech now) that if you are in line by closing time (to vote), then you get to vote.

That's really good--but it's just a bit sad the candidate himself has to actually use his last days on the stump to inform folks of there rights.

Posted by: on November 2, 2008 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK

oops--that's 'their' (not there) rights..

Posted by: on November 2, 2008 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

A plus of living in an authoritarian country, where the govt keeps tabs on you from cradle to coffin... In Poland, when you were born (unless you were born to non-citizens), you were registered.

That meant that, the first election after your 18th b-day, you could be sure of someone knocking on your door if you hadn't shown your face at the polls by afternoon. Are you sick? Need transport? Need a babysitter? Help with cooking? They'd do it all, just so you'd get your sorry butt off and vote. Even though, as my Mother pointedly said, "you can vote but you cannot elect".

Posted by: exlibra on November 2, 2008 at 2:02 PM | PERMALINK

Sounds like the opposite of which party should support it. Many moons ago, before I realized the repubs were into the religious aspect, I thought the abortion issue should have been on opposite sides than it is now, i.e. restrict abortion=greater gov't control=demos and allow abortion=less gov't control=repubs. This national voter thing seems the same opposites game again albeit with different rules i.e. national list=know everything about everyone=repubs and anti-national list=live and let live =demos.

Posted by: Wayne on November 2, 2008 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK

I would one up even Kevin and give every North American a Fed America ATM card, a card that identifies citizenship as well as bank account number.

Posted by: MattYoung on November 2, 2008 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

Nice idea, but I can think of several issues with this. The first one that popped into my mind is, "What about active duty military stationed stateside but not in their home state?" Just because they receive their mail at Fort Bragg doesn't mean they want to be registered to vote or pay taxes in North Carolina. I spent ten years on active duty, got my mail in four different states, but remained a registered voter and taxpayer in my home state of record.

Posted by: Keori on November 2, 2008 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK

I am not sure how the National ID card would help because one of the key problems seems to be that we need to identify both the State and Congressional district for any individual voter. After all, we already have a National ID which is our Social Security Card. I could see it working rather easily for National elections if we just got rid of the Electoral College which seems likes the most sensible thing of all to me anyway. But you would still have an issue of identifying legitimate voters for local and regional races. There would still have to be some registration process to identify who could legally vote in those races.

Posted by: brent on November 2, 2008 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, that's what we need - a voter registration system easily taken over by political appointees. Imagine a national voter registration system run by "loyal bushies." Consider what would happen if, say, a few partisans could do to voter registration what they did to the Department of Justice. Vote caging, anyone?

As for a national ID card - it'd be better than trying to do it through drivers licenses, like they're doing now. Putting people's pictures on their Social Security cards, making that a free ID card, and mandating application centers with weekend hours for folks with non-traditional work hours might be a start.

Posted by: RepubAnon on November 2, 2008 at 2:13 PM | PERMALINK

This clip needs to get to the Obama campaign!

Redneck supports Obama

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/us_elections_2008/7704636.stm

Posted by: ted on November 2, 2008 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK

I have alredy posted this on Kevin's site, and although Germany is the poster child for "your papers please" here it is again.
In Germany no body worries about the national ID card. It's really convenient for all sorts of situations where some sort of ID verification is needed. By law, you are required to have it, as soon as you leave home, but police don't do more than raise an eye brow if you haven't.
There is no voter registration. About six weeks before the election you get an election information letter telling you where your polling place is and with a sample ballot, so you can study it in advance. Then on election day (always a Sunday) you take your ID card, go to your polling place, stand in line (maybe two or three people in front of you), show your ID, get your ballot and an envelope and go to the booth. All a matter of five minutes.
We take democracy really serious here.

I once had to pay a fine (ca. $7) for forgetting my drivers license, but never for not having my ID card on me.

Posted by: on November 2, 2008 at 2:40 PM | PERMALINK

That was me at 2:40 pm

Posted by: Jörgen in Germany on November 2, 2008 at 2:41 PM | PERMALINK
There's more than a little room for improvement in how we run federal elections in the United States

Other than, perhaps, the election of DC's electors and the electoral college voting for the President and VP, there are no real federal elections in the US; there are state elections for for federal offices.

Because some drop out of school before their senior year, the system would have to be slightly more inclusive, but the broader point remains the same. A universal voter registration, established and administered by the federal government, would not only make the voting process easier, but would also eliminate perennial questions about fraud.

It doesn't make sense, though, because the federal government doesn't even set the standards for voting; the federal Constitution sets standards for what reasons states cannot prevent people from voting, but each state, within those guidelines, sets its own standards. Would a federal registration adopt the myriad laws and rules of the various states (and thus have the rules enforced by a different government than the one that sets them, with potentially conflicting interests), or would it mean a nationalization of the rules, and if so, under the narrowest or broadest standards, or something in between?

The solution here is getting voter registration standards and the implementation right at any level; changing the level at which it is handled is neither good nor bad on its own -- it is good if you are nationalizing good standards well implemented, perhaps, but just even more surely it is bad if you are nationalizing bad standards or good standards implemented poorly.

Posted by: cmdicely on November 2, 2008 at 2:50 PM | PERMALINK

It's starting to sound like the new Obama slogan is not so much "Get out the Vote" but rather:
"Stand and Stay in line and make your vote count"

They are anticipating huge long lines amounting to four hours or more...

I'd add--wear comfortable shoes, bring water, snacks and cell phones..

Posted by: Katie, I'd like to use a lifeline on November 2, 2008 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

Here is the real slogan: another dirty trick the Obama campaign is orchestrating for Nov. 4. They are planning to bus in Obama supporters (who presumably have already early voted) into Republican leaning precincts. They have been coached to create long lines and look intimidating to real voters and then create further chaos inside the polling places by getting into long drawn out arguments with poll workers. The idea is to make the voting process intolerably long and unpleasant, causing many Republican voters to leave without voting.

Posted by: nabalzbbfr on November 2, 2008 at 3:26 PM | PERMALINK

Good thing Republicans never have anything to do with making the voting process intolerably long and unpleasant!

Posted by: FlipYrWhig on November 2, 2008 at 3:45 PM | PERMALINK

We're a couple of years away from being able to build a cheap, easy-to-use machine that will give you a little jab like a blood-sugar tester, analyze your DNA, and produce an absolutely unique 30- to 50-digit number that could only be you. Have the voting machines do that (not knowing your name) and associate the number with your vote. Then do a massive cross-check using Al Gore's tubes and throw out any votes that show duplicates. It's the electronic equivalent of the ink-stained finger.

If your voting machines produce a paper trail, let the left-over blood soak into the paper for that vote. It's an additional cross-check.

Yes, identical twins are a problem; they may need to be made illegal.

Posted by: Bob Munck on November 2, 2008 at 4:02 PM | PERMALINK

Tangential, but still about elections - this one in particular. We should take advantage of McCain/Repub dead enders still thinking they can pull it out of the fire. Let's see where we can bet on Obama winning, among suckers who really believe McCain will win. We can deplete their resources as well as making some money wherever this might be legal (other than the obvious Intrade.) I'm serious. Game?

Posted by: NB on November 2, 2008 at 4:07 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely, you analysis is cogent as usual, but I think Steve and Kevin are implying we should work to change the situation, not accept a given strict- construction-oid tradition and viewpoint. It's time to pull "right to equal and adequate opportunity to vote" from the Ninth Ammendment, regardless of whatever the rest of the inadequate USC says.

Posted by: Neil B on November 2, 2008 at 4:10 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, a national ID card should go over well with the “black helicopter” crowd in, let’s say, Mississippi. They will secede again from the Union faster than you can say “Civil War”.

On a lighter note, the Socialist Party’s nominee for president has confirmed that Barack Obama is NOT a socialist.

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on November 2, 2008 at 4:20 PM | PERMALINK

It all sounds so nice and perfect...a national voter ID card and a permanent voter ID #...every citizen registered...yes, perfect. Until some thugs like Bush/Cheney for instance who promise one thing then do another using signing statements to do whatever they want etc. start using those numbers and ID's for other things besides voting. As a more concise means of targeting members of groups they disagree with til we have numbered groups of "dissenters" to round up.

I always look for the ways these pukes can game the 'system' for other uses than its intended purpose...ways to use it to cheat and corrupt the elections as they have never disappointed yet dishonest underhanded tactics. I even had a dream about this proposal and in it things were eerily paranoid though I can't remember any more of the dream.

We need and should demand democratic partisanship to end republican obstructionism (filibustering everything) and to prevent interference and further obstructionism in getting our democracy re-established and moving in a progressive direction for the benefit of the people and not just the wealthy. Republican idealism has wrecked this nation and has dominated for 30yrs proving by our current disaster that they do not work. We need a new direction and immediate sweeping changes if we are to survive and it means ending the neoconservative republican chains holding us back.

McCain/Palin demonstrate the unwillingness to change or to halt their divisive tactics. It's always their way or the highway...I suggest Dylan's "hiway 61".

Posted by: joey on November 2, 2008 at 4:21 PM | PERMALINK

btw...This national voter ID could also be used as your national citizen number necessary in order to buy, sell, or trade...and your national health care ID, bank ID, tax ID. Makes everything orderly and concise and just ...perfect...provided of course that everything runs like it does now...according to the constitution and our democracy...and not by a dictatorial corporate theocracy masquerading as a democracy...just saying.

(sometimes confusion is the only thing that works against ultimate power)

Posted by: joey on November 2, 2008 at 4:30 PM | PERMALINK

b o z o s ! ! !

any dang fool can see that the only sensible plan is microchip implants simultaneously w/ issuing birth certificates.

either that or get used to the notion that democracy is a messy, cumbersome process, but to paraphrase Churchill, it's the best we've got.

Posted by: teknozen on November 2, 2008 at 4:31 PM | PERMALINK
It's time to pull "right to equal and adequate opportunity to vote" from the Ninth Ammendment, regardless of whatever the rest of the inadequate USC says.

Again, I'd rather use the fact that states have the power to do things differently to get a clearly good model in place in one state, and then point to that as a national model, before saying we simply need to nationalize the system. Because if we impose a bad national system without local flexibility, what we will do is make things worse everywhere rather than making them better anywhere.

The key thing is getting access to the ballot handled right in terms of policies and implementation, regardless of the level at which it is done, not in doing it at the national level. The current system have having enforceable federal baseline standards while letting things be run largely by the state probably creates the most opportunities to correct any harmful practices, so I don't want to abandon it for a single, top-down national system without some a clear and convincing case behind made that the details of the national system will make things better in most places, and not make them worse anywhere, and will be more resilient, not less, to abuse (even by federal officeholders) than the current system.

I'm not willing to take that on faith just because many of the existing systems have demonstrated serious flaws.

Posted by: cmdicely on November 2, 2008 at 4:32 PM | PERMALINK

Voter registration fraud has checks and balances which prevent fraudulent voters from casting votes. Voting fraud isn't a problem. Election fraud, by caging and purging legitimate citizens from the rolls and preventing lawful ballots being cast, IS A PROBLEM!

I'm outraged that on the eve of getting rid of the most corrupt administration in the history of the country, we fail to have learned (much less recognize) the danger of a government that has legalized carte blanche invasions into citizens' privacy. Now, we're on the brink of electing Barack Obama, a moderate-Republican-running-as-a-Democrat, President who intends as a cost savings measure to put our medical records online, and Kevin Drum thinks it's all good. [How, again, are you a progressive Democrat, Kevin Drum?]

Let's see the newly elected roll back the Bush laws, prevent corporations from accessing our information without our express permission, and unplug the NSA's wiretapping of citizens, and then I'll consider National ID cards.

You're an enabler for Republicans, Kevin Drum, and I suspect that a President Obama, like Bill Clinton before him, will yield on Democrats' positions to get past Congressional gridlock (especially if Tuesday doesn't yield a 60-plus Democratic majority in the Senate) - He will govern as if the campaign for his reelection in 2012 had already begun, and once again, the people of the US will be screwed over in the name of one man's, one party's, personal ambition.

Posted by: JaneC on November 2, 2008 at 4:38 PM | PERMALINK
The next president should propose legislation to have the Census Bureau, when it conducts the 2010 census, also register all eligible voters who wish to be registered for future federal elections.

[Snort] Sorry, this might be a not terrible idea if he made the suggestion a few years ago and the 2010 Census weren't already fraught with problems and WAAAAY over budget. They're simply not going to print out new forms at this point. I also don't see how a two part process would be more efficient than what we have now. The person would still have to register at the state level to vote in local elections.

Post Script: Kevin goes a little further, recommending a national ID card and ending the registration process altogether.

I'll say this as nicely as possible: Bugger anything that puts an additional price tag on the ability to vote. And double-bugger trying to appease the lying hacks who have made Voter Fraud their new battle cry.

As for federalizing the process. Please. If the thought of some Regent's Uni. grad deciding whether or not your registration gets processed doesn't make your hair stand on end, turn grey and fall out, you haven't been paying attention.

Posted by: on November 2, 2008 at 4:40 PM | PERMALINK

That was me above.

I REALLY miss The Carpetbagger Report.

Posted by: tAwO 4 That 1 on November 2, 2008 at 4:41 PM | PERMALINK

oh, and btw, one grows seriously concerned about kevin drum's diminishing perspicacity. for years--way pre WaMo--the guy was a daily read for me, even if i shined on josh marshall or andy sullivan or any of the other a-listers that have been around a while.

now, today kevin tells us that he hasn't yet discovered how to set his computers to automatically roll w/ the time change and kvetches about changing the time on 4 VCR's. FOUR ? what century is that dude living in? or is he retrogressing in general, or what?

Posted by: teknozen on November 2, 2008 at 4:42 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, I saw this nonsense posted at MY's site. The problem is huge, and trying to create a one size fits all system is sure to cause disaster.

Registration itself is pretty simple. It is just one step. It is the administration of voter lists and the preparation of election ballots which is huge problem.

Since we don't have a national registration system, I like to use a much more straightforward example: Computation of tax for a particular address. It is similar because tax is based upon jurisdiction, and there are many that each address may fall into. And the boundaries change over time. Addresses are added and removed.

Yet these things are much more static than people, most don't change except by law with lots of notice.

But in Washington state there are over 900 distinct tax areas. Each area shares a set of overlapping jurisdictions and so the tax rate is the same for that area. That is the easy part, the harder part is mapping an address into one of these areas. What is required is a large, difficult to use database and a special program, plus a lot of work keeping everything up-to-date.

Yet the types of queries against a system like this are designed for one-at-a-time lookup. The local governments would be required to access a more complicated system, tracking people, using group queries in addition to individual queries.

Worse is that this system would probably see heavy use on occasions like next Tuesday. Imagine a national system going down due to high volume.

A better idea would be to prosecute people who vote twice. We might have a half dozen per year, although even the Republicans can't seem to find them.

The last time we liberals complained about hanging-chads and low-tech voting systems we got paperless electronic voting machines. Don't underestimate the power of centralized high-tech systems to cause the electorate to lose faith that their vote got counted.

Posted by: tomj on November 2, 2008 at 4:42 PM | PERMALINK

Why don't we all just recognize the obvious, and turn voter registration over to the alumni associations. They know where everyone lives, down to the latest hour...

Posted by: artsmith on November 2, 2008 at 4:46 PM | PERMALINK

Jörgen, Germans are not required to have their ID card on them. The German police aren't raising any eyebrows if you leave your house without it, simply because it's perfectly legal not to carry it with you. Of course, you may have trouble proving your identity without it, such as when renting a car or opening a bank account, so it's generally a good idea to have it with you (though you can prove your identity in other ways, too, of course). The only thing the law requires (specifically, the Gesetz über Personalausweise) is to own an ID; but keeping it at home when not needed is perfectly legal.

Conversely, the simple reason you don't have to register to vote in Germany is because you have to register your place of living with the Einwohnermeldeamt (register office). The registration for voting is then automatic. If you do happen to live abroad and don't have a residence in Germany, then, yes, you specifically do have to register to vote. (Been there, done that.) The basis for this are sections 14 and 17 of the Bundeswahlgesetz (federal election law), which require being listed in a Wählerverzeichnis (voter directory) in order to be able to vote; this is normally automatic, since every town derives its Wählerverzeichnis from the lists of the Einwohnermeldeamt; if you're not listed, say, because you're living abroad, then you do have to register explicitly (which, incidentally, is a fairly lengthy and annoying process).

Posted by: Reimer Behrends on November 2, 2008 at 4:56 PM | PERMALINK

How to know on Monday night how this contest will end:

Go through all of the polls tomorrow, state by state. All states where the difference between McCain and Obama is 3 points and less, no matter who is ahead those states will be called for McCain.

Then do the electoral math.

The stealing of this election will be done at the electronic voting machine level where it can be hidden in those 3 points.

It's also why the McCain camp has been so focused on getting the national polls down to a 3-point difference. That's for the politics of trying to sell a stolen election. About his possible it is that it legitimately happened.

Sign me,
NO FAITH AT ALL IN OUR ELECTION PROCESS

Posted by: JaneC on November 2, 2008 at 4:58 PM | PERMALINK

By are you naive if you think the GOP would sign off on this, Steve.

The last thing it wants to do is depoliticize this.

Ditto for Dems on certain issues.

Some 20 months ago, I and many other real progressives begged Pelosi to attach a COLA to the min-wage increase. Wasn't done.

But, Steve isn't half as naive as Kevin is.

As for "national ID," there's going to have to be decades of trust-building before I'd accept a national ID card, given what the current administration would have done with one.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on November 2, 2008 at 5:06 PM | PERMALINK

Steve, it's almost as if you're not reading your co-blogger's posts.

Posted by: Nell on November 2, 2008 at 5:09 PM | PERMALINK

If, like me, you are getting seriously tired of all of the crapola being sent to you via e-mail from your well meaning, but tin foil hat wearing Republican friends trying to warn you of the imminent disaster if you vote for Obama (complete with links to fruitcake websites), try sending them this simple message:

TO MY RIGHT WING FRIENDS WHO KEEP SENDING ME E-MAILS AND LINKS TO WEBSITES MAKING OUTRAGEOUS, VICIOUS, AND FALSE ATTACKS ON BARACK OBAMA: I have a proposition for you. Get 99 of your friends, and each of you put up $1,000 against my $100,000.00. I will bet that none of the following occurs within 2 years of Barack Obama being sworn in and assuming the presidency:

(1) Barack Obama reveals he was a Muslim after all and announces that we are now a Muslim nation.

(2) Barack Obama announces that he was a terrorist (or a supporter of Hamas/Al Qaida/ the PLO/ radical Pakistani religious group) and that he will now use U.S. planes to bomb U.S. cities and/or take over the United States in the name of (the previous organization or any Islamic group).

(3) Barack Obama states that the United States is now a (you can pick either one) Socialist/Communist country and all industry and wealth is now owned by the government and all wealth will be redistributed to the poorest and those who refuse to work.

(4) Barack Obama dismantles the U.S. military and surrenders to (pick any of these) Al Qaida/Iran/Kenya/any other African or Asian nation.

(5) Barack Obama will admit that he wasn't born in America (or a legitimate birth certificate will show up that conclusively proves it in the view of the major news organizations, including Washington Post & New York Times).

(6) An investigation by any governmental agency or responsible news organization (again, Washington Post & NY Times must agree on this one) proves that Democratic voter fraud or ACORN voter fraud allowed Barack Obama to win one or more electoral votes.

Off the top of my head I can't think of any other crazy crap that's been floating around the Internet. But if you point it out to me I'll add it to the list. Remember, all you need is one of the batshit insane things to occur and you get $1,000 and I lose $100,000.00 Surely you can find at least 99 other people wearing tinfoil helmets who believe everything sent to them via e-mail or that shows up on the internet (else the Nigerian oil minister would be broke by now).

My point is that I would really like to see the purveyors of this crap put some money in my pocket. We can select a trustworthy stakeholder. If you can't find 99 others to match, you can put up as much as you want, up to $100,000.00. The deadline for accepting this offer is November 30, 2008.

Posted by: Goose on November 2, 2008 at 5:17 PM | PERMALINK

No no no.

I've been working for the county offices for the past two weeks, doing Early Voting and registration. Registration is, and should be, under local control, as most elections are local elections. Should federal registration be required for School Board elections? That's what your plan entails.

What we DO need is something like Iowa has, we don't require ID with registration as long as the back office has a week to verify your identity (like with the DOT through driver's licenses) or phone you up to ask for more verification. Within the week of election day (when it's too late to verify) and even ON Election Day, you can register and vote instantly with a photo ID and proof of residence (like a lease or a power bill showing your address that matches your registration application). You merely need to have sufficient documentation to convince a trained Precinct Official you really live at your registered address. It's easy, it's the first time we've tried this, and the response is huge.

Of course, this is just Iowa, where we assume all residents have the right to vote, unless proven otherwise. We don't allow voter purges or caging.

Disclaimer: I am a temp worker, I do not speak on behalf of the County or the State of Iowa. These are just my personal opinions.

Posted by: charlie don't surf on November 2, 2008 at 5:28 PM | PERMALINK

A "National ID Card" would be a precursor to any of at least a dozen benefit programs.

Prenatal care for moms and post-natal care for infants and small children through various WIC programs. School breakfast/lunch programs. State-sponsored identification for special-needs/gifted-talented provisions. Library cards. Health alert data. Amber Alert identifications. Boarding passes for everything from public transit, to AmTrak, to airlines. Voting. Rental identification for signing leases. Applications and identifications for heating assistance, health insurance, life insurance, hoomeowners' policies, auto insurance---even driver's identification---and the list could go on ad infinitum.

BUT---the only way it works is if you make the penalties for abusing the system so severe that no sane person would dare abuse it, regardless of whether than person is just a petty crook, or the President (yep---I'm looking right atcha, you Bushylvanian scumsuckers).

There's no legitimate reason for abusing such a system, so there's no extenuating circumstance for using someone else's name to game the system. Make it a 1-strike rule---and then find out how hard life can be without that little piece of plastic.

That ID card could also be the ticket to move American society beyond the socioeconomic mandate of currency and credit cards. You can't buy anything if it's got someone else's picture on it---and that card would show up on any screen that you tried to do business on, so Steve Benen, for example, might have a really hard time paying for a beer with Kevin Drum's card....

Posted by: Steve W. on November 2, 2008 at 5:42 PM | PERMALINK

My (educated) guess is that a national id card is in our future. At least some of its purposes could be to our benefit.

Posted by: catherineD on November 2, 2008 at 6:09 PM | PERMALINK

The unique ID would prevent people from voting in two jurisdictions, such as snowbirds who might be tempted to vote in Florida and New York.

The only double-voter I have known was a fellow frosh at my mid-state Wisconsin liberal arts college. November '98, he stayed in [city redacted] long enough to get to the poll to vote for Mark Neumann (who was running neck & neck with Feingold; Neumann was also as crazy as Michelle Bachmann, if not moreso), then tripped down to his suburban Chicago hometown [redacted, again, but it's a three-words name] to vote for the GOP slate there (I think, Henry Hyde included).

So, yes, the Dems are really the problem, here.

Posted by: Idi Amin's Last Meal on November 2, 2008 at 6:13 PM | PERMALINK

Japan works the same way as the German system, described by Reimer Behrends @ 4:56. Foreigners also carry a registration card, which they are required to keep on their person.

A national registration scheme may be coming to the US, but if it does, it will bother me a lot. Japan (the case I know better than Germany) has a mechanistic and inflexible bureaucracy. Corruption and abuse of power are not any more uncommon than anywhere else, but wholesale abuse of the national registers is kept under control by public suspicion (the population are much more sensitive to privacy issues than Americans) and the sheer weight of bureaucratic detail.

Having directly experienced the irresponsible excesses of TSA officers turned loose with tiny crumbs of Federal authority, I would expect the worst from any such system. When Americans are able to say "welfare state" without losing their mental bearings and flying into wild fantasies of the Gulag, maybe the nation will be able to implement the first without creating the second.

Posted by: Jassalasca Jape on November 2, 2008 at 6:41 PM | PERMALINK

have the Census Bureau, when it conducts the 2010 census, also register all eligible voters who wish to be registered for future federal elections.

What tAwO said @4:40pm. Legislating the impossible is no solution. Even if the run-up to the 2010 Census was proceeding smoothly, it would be exceedingly difficult to add a major new operation into the process at this late date. And as tAwO noted, the run-up to 2010 is fraught with problems and complications.

It's worth thinking about for 2020, but we'd kinda like to fix voter registration before then.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on November 2, 2008 at 6:43 PM | PERMALINK

Sounds good in theory, but it can't be privatized to some company like ES&S as is done now! How do you think so many people have been purged? No control, no accountibility, no real answers...no thanks!

Posted by: Varecia on November 2, 2008 at 6:46 PM | PERMALINK

No, the Federal Gov't shouldn't be in charge. Mainly because as we see with Rove and Co, whoever is in charge of the Federal Gov't can open or bloc any sort of investigation into voting irregularities.

It seems that Voter Fraud investigations, that possession is 9/10ths of the law, and the law will be interpreted uniquely by whatever party controls the white house.


I don't think there is a problem with "voter fraud" there is a big problem with voter suppression and manipulating voting rolls..

Giving this issue as a Federal Matter doesn't solve old problems as much as create new problems.

Posted by: Ted on November 2, 2008 at 7:07 PM | PERMALINK

I've been harping about this throughout this campaign since the Dems started fucking around with their primary schedules and penalizing Michigan and Florida.

The presidential and Congressional elections are for federal offices. Therefore, we need the federal government to establish standards for open primaries and regulate how, when and where everyone votes for the president in particular but for Congress as well. Until we do this, every state becomes a battleground for abuse like Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004.

Posted by: Jeff II on November 2, 2008 at 9:06 PM | PERMALINK

Do not register voters by party...everybody is an independent. A voter would join a party irrespective of registration nad become a member of a party because he or she wants to identify with that party's ideals.

Voter registration would be federally directed and most of the incliniation for abuse eliminated.

Posted by: couser on November 2, 2008 at 9:36 PM | PERMALINK

let's just cut to the chase
the number can be stamped
on our foreheads or maybe
the palm of our hands
sound familiar ?

Posted by: est on November 2, 2008 at 9:43 PM | PERMALINK

As for federalizing the process. Please. If the thought of some Regent's Uni. grad deciding whether or not your registration gets processed doesn't make your hair stand on end, turn grey and fall out, you haven't been paying attention.Posted by:

Why is it that so many people think that voter registration and voting itselt is being handled so well locally and that making it a federalized process, as it is in pretty much every other democracy, would be so ripe for abuse? When was the last time you heard of contested national elections in Europe, Canada, Japan or Australia? The more independent agencies there are the more potential you have for abuse or simple incompetence.

We need to have all fifty states voting the same way (paper ballot, computer with duplicate tapes or by mail) the same day(s) at the same time.

The same is true of primaries - the country is too large to hold a single primary. Therefore, we should have four geographic primaries over a four-six month period. We also need to set a cap on election spending. I can't think of a more obscene waste of money than what is spent primarily calling your opponent a lying sack of shit. Finally, we desperately need to get rid of the Electoral College. Only then does everyone's vote really count. At the very least, amend the EC so that it is proportional and not an idiotic winner take all, which is hardly reflective of how the population votes as a whole in most cases.

Posted by: Jeff II on November 2, 2008 at 10:05 PM | PERMALINK

couser: "...Voter registration would be federally directed and most of the incliniation for abuse eliminated."

Again, sounds good in theory, but I'm afraid it would be privatized to something like ES&S, which is what New Mexico did with its voter registration database--big mistake!

Posted by: on November 2, 2008 at 10:08 PM | PERMALINK

There's a Constitutional issue here: specifically, the Tenth Amendment, which says The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

Given that the Constitution is utterly silent on the mechanisms of voting- not the right to vote, but the methods used to register and vote- any change to how voters or registered, or what kinds of ballots or machines people use, must, of necessity, be made at the state level.

You can do two things about this: work to change how your state registers voters, or contact your Representative's or Senator's offices about a Constitutional amendment. I don't see much other option.

Sorry, but that's just the way it is,
-Z

Posted by: Zorro on November 2, 2008 at 10:20 PM | PERMALINK
Why is it that so many people think that voter registration and voting itselt is being handled so well locally and that making it a federalized process, as it is in pretty much every other democracy, would be so ripe for abuse?

George W. Bush and his Merrie Morons.

Posted by: tAwO 4 That 1 on November 2, 2008 at 10:35 PM | PERMALINK

I'd be interested to hear what someone like Jimmy Carter and the folks who do international election monitoring from the Un have to say on this subject. How do they think our system could be improved, and by improved, I certainly do not mean modernized. I might, in fact, mean, a paper ballot for each person.

Clearly, the issue here is that in order for democracy, not just our democracy, but ANY democracy to work, there needs to be a level of trust in the mechanisms of that democracy.

The mechanisms, the foundations, the very nature of what makes our democracy a democracy--the writ of habeas corpus, free speech, equal protection under that laws, minority voting rights-have been so undermined during the last eight years, that our security in threatened from within.

Posted by: Casey Morris on November 3, 2008 at 2:46 AM | PERMALINK

Every year, everyone gets a letter from the electoral commission that says, basically, "This is who we think lives here. Are we right? If not, who does; are they over 18; and are they citizens?" Then, every time there's an election - local or national - you get a card through the post with the name of your polling station and a little map on the back that shows you where to find it. You don't need the card to vote; you just need to show up.

It's not that difficult, folks... (and don't get me started on those machines either...)

Posted by: ajay on November 3, 2008 at 4:56 AM | PERMALINK

George W. Bush and his Merrie Morons.
Posted by: tAwO 4 That

You didn't follow what happened in Florida very closely, did you? Butterfly ballot ring a bell? How about hanging chads? Catherine Harris?

It only became a, literal, federal case because the state of Florida fucked up their only election so badly.

Posted by: Jeff II on November 3, 2008 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK
Why is it that so many people think that voter registration and voting itselt is being handled so well locally and that making it a federalized process, as it is in pretty much every other democracy, would be so ripe for abuse?

Its not a "federalized process" in "pretty much every other democracy", because most other democracies are unitary and not federal to start with.

Anyhow, the problems, such as they are, with the implementation have nothing to do with the level at which the process is managed, they have to do with specific standards and practices which federalization in and of itself does nothing to correct. The important thing is having the right standards and implementation of those standards. Federalization itself simply reduces the number of venues in which poor standards and practices can be challenged.

When was the last time you heard of contested national elections in Europe, Canada, Japan or Australia?

Canada, Japan, and Australia have parliamentary systems and lack separate direct or indirect election of the head of government, and therefore nothing analogous to US Presidential elections at all. Europe, as a government (i.e., the EU), relies on elections run by the member states, according to their own rules, not the union, for its legislative body, and its executive body is directly composed of the member state government officials.

(If you are referring to contested national elections for a head of government or chief of state within continental Europe, rather than of Europe (in the form of the EU), the most recent example I can think of would be Ukraine's 2004 Presidential Election, which would seem to be exactly as recent as the most recent US Presidential election, disputed or otherwise.)

Posted by: cmdicely on November 3, 2008 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK
It only became a, literal, federal case because the state of Florida fucked up their only election so badly.

Incorrect. It became a federal case because the Bush camp sued in federal court (both before the resolution of state process, and after the state Supreme Court decision) to prevent the state from fixing its own problem, because they (correctly, as it turned out) saw the federal forum as a more friendly forum.

Posted by: cmdicely on November 3, 2008 at 1:03 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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