With a burgeoning Democratic field vying for the 2016 presidential nomination and a crowded Republican group that is already bursting at the seams, all of the presidential hopefuls are desperately trying to stand out and distinguish themselves from their rivals.
One of the most effective ways for the candidates to differentiate themselves is through innovative and attention-grabbing policy proposals. Whether it be a novel foreign policy proposition or a unique idea affecting programs on the domestic front, the growing list of folks running for president is actively and aggressively courting the press and seeking that big headline.
Even Hillary Clinton, the presumed frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, is not immune to the never-ending pursuit of a good policy-related headline. I think it is Hillary who has put forth the one policy proposal thus far that has a great degree of substance and the opportunity to impact this country in a significant fashion.
During a recent address at Houston’s Texan Southern University, in which she discussed the dangers associated with disenfranchising voters, Hillary called for the automatic voter registration of every United States citizen on his or her 18th birthday.
“Every citizen in every state in the union, everyone, every young man or young woman, should be automatically registered to vote when they turn 18,” she declared. “I think this would have a profound impact on our elections and our democracy.”
Hillary Clinton and I are on the same page on this one. Putting aside politics for a moment, the reality is that our electoral system is in desperate need of an overhaul. Voting may be one of the fundamental privileges that we enjoy as U.S. citizens, but it has sadly become somewhat of a forgotten right that too many people fail to exercise.
Approximately one-third to one-quarter of Americans who are eligible to vote are unable to do so because they never registered. Whether they simply forgot to register or simply chose not to, the fact is that there are far too many Americans who simply do not have a voice in our democratic system of government.
In February 2012, the Pew Charitable Trusts published a report that had been commissioned by the Pew Center on the States, which found that the voter registration system in the U.S. is inaccurate, costly and inefficient, and in need of an upgrade. The report noted a number of staggering statistics, including the fact that approximately 24 million, or one of every eight, voter registrations are no longer valid or wholly inaccurate; over 1.8 million Americans who are deceased are still listed as voters and nearly 3 million Americans have voter registrations in more than one state. In addition, at least 51 million eligible U.S.citizens, or more than 24 percent of the eligible population, are not registered to vote.
There is no question that we have a problem. When it comes to voter registration and ensuring the integrity of the process, we are severely lacking. While countries such as France, England, Germany and Canada enjoy exceptionally high voter registration rates, the U.S. stands out for its ineptitude in this critical area. We need to do something to fix what has become an archaic and broken system.
Will Hillary Clinton’s plan of automatic voter registration completely solve the problem? The answer is probably not, although it is estimated that her proposal could lead to 50 million new registrants, which is a noteworthy figure. However, it will definitely enhance our electoral system and bring much-needed reform to the process.
The concept of automatic voter registration, whereby the government would register all eligible citizens on their 18th birthday unless they exert their right to opt out, is not so different from the current practice in Oregon, where residents are automatically registered to vote when they obtain a driver’s license. It is a model that is rooted in common sense, with an eye towards encouraging and enhancing the civic participation of American citizens.
Hillary’s transformative proposal has the ability to infuse new life into our electoral system and imbue a degree of excitement into a process that has long been defined by voter apathy. If we can get past the politics and the partisanship and come together to explore the implementation of what I believe is a sound policy proposal, we might be able to effectuate real change in an area that very much needs a makeover.
N. Aaron Troodler is an attorney and principal of Paul Revere Public Relations, a public relations and political consulting firm. Visit him on the Web at TroodlersTake.blogspot.com, www.PaulReverePR.com or www.JewishWorldPR.com. You can also follow him on Twitter: @troodler.
By N. Aaron Troodler, Esq.