U.S. attorney general says voter registration should be automatic

BOSTON Tue Dec 11, 2012 6:21pm EST

Related Topics

BOSTON (Reuters) - Attorney General Eric Holder said on Tuesday that U.S. election officials should register eligible voters automatically and take steps to reduce the long lines Americans encountered in national elections on November 6.

In a speech being given in Boston, Holder became the highest-ranking official to call for voting changes since President Barack Obama expressed exasperation with the hours-long lines during his re-election victory speech last night.

"Modern technology provides ways to address many of the problems that impede the efficient administration of elections," Holder said, according to a copy of the speech obtained by Reuters before delivery.

The United States has a patchwork election system, relying on local officials in 50 states and the District of Columbia to process the paperwork needed to register - without the use of a national ID card that some other democracies use.

Registering to vote is a necessary step to be eligible to cast a ballot in almost every U.S. state, and some jurisdictions require the paperwork weeks before Election Day.

All the paperwork is handled at the local or state level, and new paperwork is needed when someone moves.

Holder said the system was needlessly complex and riddled with mistakes, resulting in 60 million adult U.S. citizens not being eligible to cast a ballot in the 2008 presidential election because they had not filed the right paperwork.

By coordinating existing databases, the government could register "every eligible voter in America" and ensure that registration did not lapse during a move, Holder said at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.

An overhaul would likely require approval from Congress, a significant obstacle because of the view by many Republicans that easing registration requirements could increase voter fraud.

Obama shone a spotlight on the subject hours after winning a second four-year term. In his victory speech, he told those who waited in long lines to vote, "By the way, we have to fix that."

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on "the state of the right to vote" on December 19.

Holder, as the chief U.S. law enforcement official, has some limited powers to enforce voting protections. The first black attorney general, he has called improving the system a natural extension of the civil rights movement that in the 1960s eliminated ended many barricades for black voters.

"The arc of American history has bent towards expanding the franchise," he said in Boston. "This generation must be true to that more inclusive history. This is our time; it is not a time to restrict the franchise."

To reduce long lines, Holder said polling places should have an adequate number of voting machines and be open for additional days - another difficult challenge because thousands of local officials make those decisions independently.

(Reporting by David Ingram; Editing by Peter Cooney)

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (3)
victor672 wrote:
Automatic, if you’re black or Mexican or a union member, right Holder? Haven’t you resigned yet?

Dec 11, 2012 7:53pm EST  --  Report as abuse
CHMorrison wrote:
“Automatic, if you’re black or Mexican or a union member, right Holder? Haven’t you resigned yet?”

Another right-wing zombie who wants us to believe that if you make it easier to register to vote the only people who benefit will be lefties and racial minorities. NO! Registration should be easier because it is right, even if people like him take advantage of it. It will make it harder for people to avoid taking responsibility for decisions that affect their lives. They can, of course, stay home, but they will always have the option of registering. Any problems with the registration can be taken care of long before the actual election, and this is another reason for doing it.

Dec 11, 2012 8:16pm EST  --  Report as abuse
kevin2ia wrote:
Nothing this turd says surprises anyone. One must read through crap to understand what is actually being said. “I intend to realize a one (1) party system, Democrats, that can rule everyone, select who succeeds and who fails based upon nepotism and control all of the ever declining wealth that this white trash country can provide.”

Dec 11, 2012 11:23pm EST  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.