I am from California, but since I go to school in one of the most significant counties in one of the nation’s most significant states of the 2016 election, I opted to register to vote here in North Carolina.
Doing so has made me realize a critical fault in the American registration process: it is so different in every state. We see all of these campaigns to “get out the vote.” Yet, we never see any universal change in the way people go about voting. All 50 states have a unique process. This variation shows itself in weak voter turnout; only 57.5 percent of eligible voters performed their civic duty in 2012. The best way to get higher voter percentages is to nationalize the registration process and install universal early voting in all 50 states.
The most significant reason why a more nationalized voting process will lead to higher voter turnout is because the “get out the vote” campaigns could be run on a national scale instead of at the state level. This change would benefit presidential campaigns because they could focus their messages nationally instead of only on swing states that may matter from an Electoral College standpoint but fail to capture the zeitgeist of the entire nation.
A nationalized registration process would also lead to higher voter turnout because it would be easier to educate the voters on how to register if it could be done on the national stage. Imagine, for example, that during the halftime of an NFL game, a celebrity appeared on the TV screen to explain how to register. It would be a universal process for every American. People could no longer use registration-confusion as an excuse not to vote.
Another key issue with our voting process is that early voting works differently in each state where it exists. If the early voting times were nationalized, they too could be advertised on a national scale. I personally had to seek out the early voting times in North Carolina. This was not an issue for me because I am politically inclined and actively want to vote. However, many Americans cannot say the same. Thus, they do not vote when information about voting is not spoon-fed to them. If early voting times were presented to folks early and often, on social media, television and newspapers, the likelihood that they vote is certain to increase.
I think it is foolish to advocate for voting to be a legal requirement like it is in countries like Australia. Doing so goes against the American principles of liberty and free speech. Yet making it as easy as possible for people to perform one of the most basic civic duties ought to be an American priority.