At the Core of Our Democracy, A Fragile Voting System

At the Core of Our Democracy, A Fragile Voting System

flagAt the Core of Our Democracy, A Fragile Voting System

By: Lee Hamilton, Director of the Center on Congress at Indiana University

Our challenge is to ensure that those who vote really are entitled to do so, while at the same time making it as convenient as possible for all who are entitled to cast their ballots.

You would think that after more than two centuries of practice, we’d know all about running efficient and accurate elections. Voting, after all, is the great shared ritual of democracy.

Elections make real the consent of the governed and provide legitimacy to our government. Registering to vote should be convenient and voting itself should be efficient and pleasant, with machines operating properly, registration lists accurate and current, fraud minimized and disputes handled fairly. Citizens should see their votes as both a right and a privilege and be proud they are citizens in a democracy.

Yet as the November elections approach, the systems by which they’re run seem more beleaguered and fragile than ever. Recently, the Pew Center on the States found that about 51 million eligible citizens aren’t registered at all and roughly one in eight voter registrations in the U.S. — that’s 24 million — are either no longer valid or are inaccurate.

Voter rolls are riddled with errors. Some voters are registered to vote in two or even three states simultaneously, and voters are unable to cast their ballots because of some unresolved — and usually unwitting — problem with their registration.

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Lee Hamilton is Director of the Center on Congress at Indiana University. He was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for 34 years.

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