Automatic Voter Registration Makes Our Nation More Democratic
Minority Americans are increasingly facing challenges that make it more difficult to participate in our democracy. One of those challenges is the right to participate in the fundamental piece of our country, voting. Surprisingly, the right to vote is not enshrined in our Constitution, though it should be. In the absence of that affirmative right to vote, 34 states over the past 10 years have passed laws making it harder to vote, which affect minority communities disproportionately.
Most recently, the Supreme Court upheld a voter ID law in Texas that will exclude 600,000 mostly black and Latino people from voting. In her dissent of that decision Justice Ginsberg called the Texas law an, “unconstitutional poll tax.” We need to recognize allowing every American to be heard makes us stronger, as it always has. We also need to reject the flawed logic of disenfranchisement and embrace the belief that every American who wants to vote, should be able to do so.
Earlier this year, Oregon became the first state in our nation to adopt automatic voter registration. The “Motor Voter” law, as it is commonly known, means that any Oregon resident with a driver’s license will be automatically registered to vote and will receive a ballot by mail in the weeks prior to election day. While it is still being determined how many voters will be added to voter registration rolls, estimates are as high as 800,000.
And just last week, former Secretary of State and Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton came out in favor of nationwide automatic registration once someone turns 18. Such a proposal would begin to eliminate the countless barriers that certain American citizens have to letting their voice be heard, and I stand with her in calling for automatic voter registration.
More than one hundred years ago, millions of new immigrants came to America in search of a better life. However, the reception was not always warm. The fear that this new wave of immigration would take jobs from hardworking Americans often manifested in open hostility. By the start of 20th century, life was still not easy for Irish Americans but through hard work and a dedication to the American political process, they would become a part of the American fabric and a voting bloc to be reckoned with – one that ultimately resulted in a political dynasty and one of the greatest presidents in our history.
The eventual acceptance and inclusion of the Irish community made our country more democratic and more representative, as the Irish were at one time the second largest ethnic group in the country.
Today, millions wait for the same opportunity. It is a story little changed from more than one hundred years ago. Like with the Irish, the reception has not always been warm, but through hard work and a dedication to the American political process, they too, are now becoming a voting bloc to be reckoned with.
The 34 states that have made it more difficult to vote for minority Americans are subverting democracy, plain and simple. Sadly, lawmakers in many other states are looking to do the same. However, as long as I am in elected office, I will oppose any attempt to make it more difficult for American minorities to vote. In fact, I will be doing just the opposite and fight for policies that would make it easier to vote, including automatic registration, weekend voting, making Election Day a national holiday, and a number of other initiatives.
I believe that the success of our country depends on our dedication to protecting the rights that make our democracy strong and representative of our citizens.
It all begins with the right to vote.