COUNTERPOINT: Balance expanded election voter turnout with strong security

COUNTERPOINT: Balance expanded election voter turnout with strong security


Since President Donald Trump was elected into office, much of the mainstream news coverage has been devoted to the investigation into Russia’s influence on the United States election. But instead, we should turn our attention to within our own borders and examine the number of ineligible voters participating in our elections.

California chooses to ignore the warnings of internal election fraud by continuing its loosened election security procedures. The state has been at the forefront of finding new, innovative ways to increase its voter turnout, especially among young people. But it is a mistake for California to prioritize voter participation over election security.

In 2013, the state pioneered a new program by passing a bill allowing 16 and 17-year-olds to pre-register to vote, allowing them to automatically be registered when they turn 18. Just last week, California’s secretary of state boasted about the landmark 100,000 teenagers who have pre-registered through this program. But voter fraud data begs the question: How many of these teenagers will actually be eligible to vote when they turn 18?

The Washington Times reports that close to 5.7 million noncitizens voted in the 2008 presidential election, and the National Review reports that there are over 3.5 million more people registered to vote than there are eligible voters. San Diego County was found to have 38 percent more registered voters than eligible voters, revealing more than 800,000 ghost voters. Los Angeles County was found to have 112 percent voter registration, meaning there were more than 700,000 additional ghost voters. All of this translates to an undermining of the right American citizens hold most dear: the right to vote.

Despite centuries of Americans fighting for their right to vote the United States has one of the lowest voter participation rates in the developed world at 55.7 percent, as of the 2016 U.S. presidential election. 

This is not to suggest that California’s plan to increase this figure is a bad idea. In fact, it’s a great program that inspires young people to become more involved and interested in politics from a younger age. Establishing voting habits early on will surely carry into later life and ensure that they continue to be civil participants.

But this program is counterproductive if it undermines election security. After all, the entire purpose of registering to vote is to make sure potential voters are in fact eligible to vote — that voters are registered in only one state and county, that they are alive (a Pew report found 1.8 million deceased Americans were registered to vote in the 2012 election) and, of course, that they are citizens.

An ideal voting society should include a secure election with only eligible voters participating and a voter registration program that encourages as much participation as possible.

One question that comes to mind is: Why even have voter registration in the first place? The best voting program would be one that does not require voters to register before they cast their ballots. Take North Dakota for example. It is the only state that does not require its voters to register before they vote; North Dakota citizens can simply show up to the polls and cast their votes, maximizing efficiency and access. That said, North Dakota still ensures its elections are secure by requiring its voters to present valid government IDs proving their voter eligibility.

Several states have these voter-ID laws that require voters to prove their citizenship and voter eligibility before they cast a ballot. California’s laws are not as strict. The state does not have a photo ID requirement, and it even allows its voters to present a copy of a recent utility bill or a student identification card as sufficient ID.

California should indeed be commended for reaching 100,000 pre-registered voters. The state’s innovative pre-registration plan has been adopted by several other states who look to increase youth voter participation.

However, California’s plan fails to address the overarching issue of election security. The program only meets one of the elements of an ideal voting society. Yes, it increases participation in politics, but our ideal scenario is not to merely increase voter turnout. Rather, it’s to increase voter turnout among legal voters.

Shauli Bar-On is a freshman majoring in political science. “Point/Counterpoint” runs Wednesdays.

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