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Modernize the Vote
Registering to vote should be modern, accurate and automatic. That’s why U.S. PIRG is working to modernize the vote by starting at the point of entry — registration — and passing policies like online, automatic and Election Day registration.
Every American — Democrat, Republican, or independent — has a fundamental right to have their vote counted.
But these days, despite using computers, tablets and smartphones for nearly every aspect of our daily lives, nearly half our country is still using pen and paper to register to vote.
Registering to vote should be modern, accurate and automatic. But our outdated and often inaccurate system works against that idea, and can leave eligible voters to deal with registration problems when they go to cast their vote on Election Day.
In fact, in the 2012 presidential election, it’s estimated that more than a million eligible voters tried to vote but were turned away because of registration problems. And making matters worse, these outdated systems are generally more expensive and less accurate. One in eight voter records on the rolls is either invalid or has serious issues, many due to human errors from processing paper applications.
We can do better. That’s why U.S. PIRG is working to modernize the vote by starting at the point of entry — registration — and passing policies like online, automatic and Election Day registration.
Our ideas are simple. You should be able to register to vote online and check or update it at any time. On Election Day, you should be able to register to vote — or fix any problems with your voting information — at your polling place. Finally, anytime you interact with a government agency, whether that’s getting a license at the DMV or updating your address at the post office, your voter registration info should be updated electronically and automatically.
This fundamental shift could add millions of eligible voters to the rolls, bringing more voices into our elections and ensuring everyone has the opportunity to be heard. Doing so would also make our elections more secure, and save taxpayers money.
Each state is at a different point on the path to modernizing the vote, and should focus on the set of solutions that will get them there. States should first prioritize online voter registration, before working to implement electronic voter registration at state agencies, streamlining voter databases, and pre-registration. Together, all these steps build toward universal registration through automatic and Election Day registration.
U.S. PIRG has a long history of working on the ground to increase voter participation. Through the New Voters and Community Voters Project, we have accumulated a vast wealth of knowledge about what processes work and what barriers exist to getting citizens to the polls — as well as the local relationships we need to organize key stakeholders to advocate for modernization. Getting more people registered to vote, and getting our country further along the path toward universal registration is a key strategy for increasing voter participation.
Now is the time to act. We need to work for and win commonsense reforms to modernize our elections and strengthen our democracy.
To many, Iowa caucuses seem a bit confusing, but there is something valuable about the process of caucusing. Caucussing attempts to address a real problem in American politics: limited voter choice. When you only have one vote, you often have to decide between a candidate who most closely shares your values and the candidate you think is most likely to win. But after watching the 2020 caucuses, there has to be a simpler, better way to assess the will of the voters. Fortunately, there is, and it’s called ranked-choice voting (RCV).
After a historic run of small donor contributions to presidential candidates throughout most of 2019, U.S. PIRG found big money -- contributions greater than $200-- has reclaimed its role as the top source of fundraising for candidates. This is according to a new analysis of 2020 fourth quarter Federal Election Commission data.
On the tenth anniversary of Citizens United, we have reason to be optimistic. Americans overwhelmingly support amending the constitution and progress can be made even while Citizens United remains the law of the land. There are opportunities for real reform at every level of government. We can use the tools of our democracy to return power to the American people.
Consumer, public health and voter advocacy -- often from the national nonpartisan group U.S. PIRG and its affiliates -- moved the ball forward at the state level in 2019.
In a new analysis of 2020 presidential candidates’ fundraising totals, U.S. PIRG found that small donations -- contributions of less than $200 -- are the single largest source of cash received so far in this election season. Small donor totals out-paced large donations, PACs, party committees, transfers and self-funding, according to the study of third quarter filings by candidates to the Federal Election Commission.
January 15th marked the 10th anniversary of the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling, widely blamed for opening the floodgates to special interest spending in our elections. U.S. legislators joined PIRG and other pro-democracy organizations to decry the ongoing harm caused by the ruling—and to highlight the growth of the pro-reform movement.
Democracy | U.S. PIRG
For years, it has been impossible to run for office without relying heavily on large dollar donations. While big money still has disproportionate influence, a combination of technological and cultural changes have made it possible for candidates for president to run for office while relying primarily on small-donor money.
- Small donors’ big voice in 2020 presidential race not quite as loud in most recent quarter
- Small donors driving 2020 presidential race
- Good Government Leaders Call on Senate to Postpone Price Vote
- Outside Influence: Out-of-state money in the 2016 senate elections
- Congressional Primaries by Fundraising Receipts
Tools & Resources
Author: Professor John C. Coates IV, Harvard Law School
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