When President Barack Obama paused in his victory speech, thanking voters for waiting in long lines to vote but noting
While I’m happy to see Federal law makers introducing electoral reform legislation clearly written to help voters, policies expanding registration and easing ballot access, unfortunately do not rank high on Congress’ agenda. In fact, as this presidential election has shown, interested parties seem inclined to take advantage of the decentralized and disorganized system for partisan gain. Little is done at the national level to curb such behavior, and affected voters have weak legal foundation to right these wrongs. We can’t even get Congress to confirm nominees to the
Voting rights and rules are in fact largely determined at the state and local level, and national legislation tends only to suggest change and provide appropriate incentives. A national
What’s a frustrated voter to do?
In fact, the inertia at the federal level as well as the absence of overarching electoral rules is actually an opportunity for electoral reform now, in the places where it is most needed. Since electoral rules are set by states, counties and cities – and with the latter on the front lines of engagement with voters — we have the ability to propose changes to their city councils or state legislators in ways that truly benefit voters. Resolutions at the local level can extend early voting, increase polling places, call for pre-registration for 17-year-olds, and push the boundaries of current legislation. Between November 2012 and the next national election in November 2014, hundreds of local elections will take place, giving localities plenty of opportunities to experiment with new, progressive and positive electoral rules, all the while working to increase turnout in all elections.
Passing a local right to vote resolution, complete with steps to improve voter turnout, protect voters, and expand knowledge about voting procedure and policies, corrects the ineptitudes of current electoral rules while bringing attention to the importance of passing an affirmative right to vote amendment at the national level. Our local right to vote resolutions are designed for local government bodies: city councils, county commissions or school boards. The resolutions pledge to examine local electoral rules, as well as revise and expand the language to better reflect voter needs.
Political actors often stress the importance of the youth voter, yet little is done to redress the difficulties facing college voters. Local resolutions committing to concrete actions to ease registration, clarify absentee ballot use and increase polling locations would certainly result in increased voter turnout on campuses.
Community organizations are often the force behind societal and political change. Currently in development, this resolution commits local organizations and chapters such as church groups or rotary clubs to participate in similar activities as the city and campus resolutions.
With these resolutions beginning at the local level and designed for voters to experience free, fair and accessible elections, voters can respond to voter disenfranchisement and election-day obstacles with, “Yes Mr. President, we certainly can fix that.” At the very least, attention will be brought to the highly decentralized nature of our electoral system, and voters can make changes that positively affect their voting experiences. Through the efforts of Americans nation-wide, we can also highlight the need for a stronger foundation for America’s most basic and important form of civic engagement: voting.
We are sure that
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