If I had a 60 seat Senate majority to pass a piece of legislation, one of the first things that I would do would be to make the rules governing elections more fair for everyone and more standardized amongst the states. I might wait until after I pass Campaign Finance Reform first, but perhaps that can wait a few minutes. Anyways, provisions should include:
- States must have early voting open for at least 17 days before the election
Elections in the US are held on Tuesdays. This would give people 2 weekends and just over 2 weeks to cast a ballot. If plenty of early voting slots are available, then it doesn't matter what day of the week the election is held. I find the idea that if we had the final day of the election held on a weekend would increase voter turnout to be fallacious.
- All polling locations inside a state must be open the same hours. A minimum of 9-5 during this 17 day voting window, but states can increase it if they would like.
With the events in Ohio recently where the Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted asked voting precincts open in Republican areas to stay open longer than Democratic areas was an all-too-obvious attempt at attempting to fix the election. After being called on it by the media - which became a national cry of political corruption - he issued a mandate to all precincts that they need to stay open the same hours. There is no reason that this should ever happen again.
- Any voter can vote at any polling location inside the state.
This combats the problem above even further. But more to the point, I find it absurd that you have to vote within a few blocks of where you live instead of where you work or where you spend your time. I understand that 100 years ago it was easier to prevent people from voting at multiple locations by forcing them to vote only at home. But there is no reason, in this day of electronic technology, that a state wide electronic registry an ensure that you only vote once. Besides, voter fraud is a terribly inefficient way to attempt to steal an election.
- People can register to vote over the internet. Also, anyone with a valid state government issued ID can vote in that state, even without registering to vote beforehand.
This should be a no-brainer in this day and age. Make life easier for everyone. I really just don't understand what the need for voter registration - except for those who are new residents of an area - even exists anymore besides to keep people from voting.
- All absentee ballots must be postmarked no later than the day of the election.
This is just for consistency's sake. Some states say it has to arrive by the day of the election and others allow weeks after an election for the ballots to be mailed. This is just an easy to remember rule.
The Federal government does not have constitutional authority to tell states how they should run their elections, but they do have constitutional authority to bribe the states to doing what they would like them to do. In addition, I am not a huge fan of unfunded mandates. Therefore the government should give each state $100 per resident, earmarked for election costs and public sector workers, for obliging by these rules.
Total cost to the federal government: $35 billion at most.