Jay Thal has been serving the Forest Hills community for 20 years as the precinct captain of precinct 138, overseeing voting at the Capital Memorial Church on Chesapeake Street, and as he states, “Always supported by a great staff.”
This is the first of three opinion pieces Thal is writing on voting. (Thal’s views are his own and do not represent those of the DC Board of Elections.)
You cannot vote unless you are registered to vote.
Of course, not everyone drives and not every jurisdiction aggressively reaches out to register voters. It was finally initiated because there were areas in this country where it was still difficult getting registered to vote.
And there is the impact of Supreme Court striking down a key provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act in 2013 that freed nine mostly southern states from federal oversight of their election laws. Pick up your newspaper, and it is not uncommon to read where there are growing impediments to both registration and to voting. Only actual voters have the ability to influence “their” representatives to lift impediments that others may face.
DC is, in fact, better than other jurisdictions in registering voters. It reaches out to 17-year-olds at schools; it provides for same-(election)day registration; but it could do even more.
And in fact, the Council is considering to extend voting rights to permanent residents (not U.S. citizens) for local elections in the Local Resident Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2015 . A hearing was held on July 8th , but the Judiciary Committee did not vote it out of committee before the Council recess.
A growing number of states (now five – California, Connecticut, Oregon, Vermont and West Virginia) go beyond the NVRA by requiring those obtaining licenses to affirmatively turn down the opportunity to register as a voter.
What more can be done?
Here’s one, not so crazy, idea: register persons as presumptive voters at birth, and update their continued eligibility/residency at critical times in their life – entry to preschool, elementary and high school; even getting that driver license.
What sense, today, does it make for the Bureau of Records collect footprints? You are not going to take off your shoe to show the ridges and valleys on your big toe to identify yourself. Technology and biometrics can identify that unique you and assure against any possibility of voter fraud.
And it is being done in other countries.
Why should D.C. do less? D.C. could be an exemplar for the country.