This article is based on a report, OUR COMMON PURPOSE, produced in June, 2020, by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In his New Yorker article of 11/16/20, Evan Osnos likened the report to the civic equivalent of the 9/11 Commission Report. It offers bipartisan recommendations in the form of six Strategies, with between two and eight recommendations per strategy.
While the original constitution was intended to cover “everyone”, the concept of “one man, one vote” has changed substantially since its passage. We now consider it to cover American men of all colors and races, not just caucasian. And we consider it to include all American women when that certainly was not the expectation of the Founding Fathers. Much more has changed as well. We have moved from a predominantly rural nation of farmers to a predominantly urban nations with a wide range of retail and professional services workers, factory workers, drivers, teachers…. but very few people employeed full time as farmers. While life in the 21st century is substantially different than that in the 18th century, some of our governmental policies have not kept up.
The removal in 2013 of some of the enforcement and protections provided in the Voting Rights Act, leave many of our fellow American citizens
at the mercy of local jurisdictions which have actively tried to keep them from voting as recently as Nov. 3, 2020. The last two Republican Presidents lost the popular vote but won the presidency because of the rules for using the Electoral College which gives more weight to voters in rural areas than in urban areas. It is time to reconsider how we can give more voting power to each American citizen independent of their race, gender or zipcode. This is the second set of recommentations by “OUR COMMON PURPOSE: REINVENTING AMERICAN DEMOCRACY FOR THE 21ST CENTURY”:
STRATEGY 2: Empower Voters
This strategy includes the following 8 recommendations:
- Give people more choices about where and when they vote, with state-level legislation in all states that supports the implementation of vote centers and early voting. During an emergency like COVID-19, officials must be prepared to act swiftly and adopt extraordinary measures to preserve ballot access and protect the fundamental right to vote.
- Change federal election day to Veterans Day to honor the service of veterans and the sacrifices they have made in defense of our constitutional democracy, and to ensure that voting can occur on a day that many people have off from work. Align state election calendars with this new federal election day.
- Establish, through state and federal legislation,same-day registration and universal automatic voter registration, with sufficient funding and training to ensure that all government agencies that have contact with citizens include such registration as part of their processes.
- Establish, through state legislation, the preregistration of sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds and provide educational opportunities for them to practice voting as part of the preregistration process.
- Establish, through congressional legislation, that voting in federal elections be a requirement of citizenship, just as jury service is in the states. All eligible voters would have to participate, in person or by mail, or submit a valid reason for nonparticipation. Eligible voters who do not do so would receive a citation and small fine. (Participation could, of course, include voting for “none of the above.”)
- Establish, through state legislatures and/or offices of secretaries of state, paid voter orientation for voters participating in their first federal election, analogous to a combination of jury orientation and jury pay. Most states use short videos produced by the state judicial system to provide jurors with a nonpolitical orientation to their duty; first-time voters should receive a similar orientation to their duty.
- Restore federal and state voting rights to citizens with felony convictions immediately and automatically upon their release from prison, and ensure that those rights are also restored to those already living in the community.
End of Strategy 2 recommendations.
To see the full report go to Our Common Purpose: Reinventing American Democracy for the 21st Century