Uncommon sense in new “Motor Voter” bills

Sean Ross, News editor

In the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s shameless gutting of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, there has been an ever increasing push in several states, primarily in the deep south, to create barriers between the common citizen and their right to participate in government.

In the 5-4 decision, the Court’s opinion, delivered by Chief Justice John Roberts, declared that the Act “employed extraordinary measures to address an extraordinary problem,” and that “there is no denying, however, that the conditions that originally justified these measures no longer characterize voting in the covered jurisdictions.”

Apparently, discrimination at the polls is no longer a thing.

Yet, in this era of state-sanctioned voter suppression, two states signed into law last year bills that implement a radical new approach to voting; under Oregon House Bill 2177 and California Assembly Bill 1461, every citizen who is at least 17 years of age and registers or applies for renewal of a driver’s license, state ID, or files a change of address form will automatically be registered to vote with the party of their choosing, if any.

It also mandates the implementation of an electronic application system. If two UC Berkeley students get their way, this automatic registration will extend to all students attending any California public college. If implemented, all current and future students will have the requisite voter information forwarded to the appropriate election officials.

What a novel concept; a simple yet elegant way of bringing potentially millions of new voters to the poll, simply by making registration automatic, rather than an additional hoop to jump through. These are brilliant pieces of ground breaking legislation that the states of California and Oregon have every reason to be proud of.

However, the fact that this is considered groundbreaking legislation is nothing short of disgraceful. An unrestricted right to vote is essential to the democratic process which America has professed to hold so dear. Why then is this not the default throughout the country? What possible excuse is there that voter registration is opt-in, rather than opt-out? If this fair nation were to be true to it’s espoused ideal of E Pluribus Unum, then every U.S. citizen should automatically be registered to vote — the day they are able to.

As it stands currently, there are simply too many obstacles between a would-be voter and the ballot box. Too many voters show up to the polls only to find out that they needed to register at least a month in advance. It’s no surprise that only 36.4 percent of eligible voters took part in the 2014 midterm elections, the lowest in more than half a century. For reference, Turkey — you know that country a certain Gollum-like individual is hell-bent on devolving into Sultanate — had a participation rate of 86.4 percent.

The fact that Congress currently has a 14 percent approval rating, yet simultaneously saw 96.4 percent of its incumbents reelected to their posts is a direct result of this pathetic level of voter participation. Also the fact that former U.S. President Jimmy Carter can say with factual accuracy that the U.S. government is “an oligarchy, with unlimited political bribery being the essence of getting the nominations for president or to elect the president. And the same thing applies to governors and U.S. senators and congress members.”

Bravo to the States of California and Oregon. This uncommon sense legislation is precisely what this country needs to move forward and catch up with the rest of the developed world.