Top U.S. election official opposes automatic voter registration
The chairwoman of the Election Assistance Commission told the nation's state legislators last week that she's opposed to automatic voter registration.
Adding qualified citizens to the rolls whenever they do business with a state agency, unless they choose to opt out, has quickly become a widely accepted component of most democracy reform agendas. Eighteen states will have so-called AVR in place in time for the 2020 election after a surge of acceptance in state legislatures this decade. And the practice would be nationally mandated under HR 1, the comprehensive campaign finance, election and ethics legislation the House passed in March.
But Christy McCormick argues that registering to vote is a form of speech protected by the First Amendment and that "not registering to vote is a choice – we should respect our citizens' choices."
Rick Hasen, a law professor at the University of California Irvine, published an item about the presentation on his election law blog, saying that the presentation "raised some eyebrows" at the gathering in Nashville of the National Conference of State Legislatures.
The EAC is an advisory commission, created after the disputed 2000 election to help states improve their elections – most recently by distributing money approved by Congress for buying new voting equipment and otherwise enhancing election security.
So McCormack, a Republican who has been chairwoman for four years and was previously a top trial attorney in the voting section of the Justice Department's civil rights division, has no power to shape voter registration policy. Nonetheless, opposition to AVR from one of the top election policy officials in the federal government is notable.
In her presentation to the legislators, McCormack cited a Supreme Court case decided last year, involving a public sector employee who did not join the union because he disagreed with its political positions but was still required to pay dues. The court ruled against the union, saying requiring non-members to pay was forced speech and therefore a violation of the First Amendment.
McCormick also said that automatic voter registration does not necessarily increase turnout and that it would expose more people's voter information to be hacked. "A voter's information belongs to the voter and only to the voter, and he or she – we — should decide how we want our private information to be shared," slides for her presentation said.
In January 2017, McCormick said she did not believe claims of Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign, calling it "deceptive propaganda perpetrated on the American public."
But in an op-ed column in March, McCormick acknowledged that "in the wake of the 2016 presidential election, intelligence officials began to piece together evidence of Russian election interference."
Earlier this year, she and other commissioners pleaded for more money from Congress to help improve security for upcoming elections because of concerns over hacking.
In a statement Wednesday, McCormick said she was "specifically asked by NCSL to provide a counterpoint and share some of the challenges to implementing automatic voter registration." McCormick said she favors so-called automated registration, which often occurs at motor vehicle bureaus, in which people renewing drivers' licenses are invited to register.
"Voters should give prior consent to registering to vote for a variety of reasons, including, but not limited to, indicating political affiliation, choosing to register in a different state, or declining to register based on religious objection," she said.
- Democrats push for automatic voter registration in Wisconsin, New ... ›
- Maine on course to be the 18th state with automatic voter registration ›
- Colorado enacts automatic voter registration - The Fulcrum ›
Remember that tweet exchange in May between Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the one where they discussed bipartisan legislation to ban former members of Congress from becoming lobbyists?
To recap: Ocasio-Cortez tweeted her support for legislation banning the practice in light of a report by the watchdog group Public Citizen, which found that nearly 60 percent of lawmakers who recently left Congress had found jobs with lobbying firms. Cruz tweeted back, extending an invitation to work on such a bill. Ocasio-Cortez responded, "Let's make a deal."
The news cycle being what it is, it's easy to forget how the media jumped on the idea of the Texas Republican and the New York Democrat finding common ground on a government ethics proposal. Since then, we've collectively moved on — but not everyone forgot.
The government reform group RepresentUs recently drafted a petition asking Cruz and Ocasio-Cortez to follow through on their idea, gathering more than 8,000 signatures.
But in general, young adults have a lot more trust issues than their elders
Sixty percent of young adults in the United States believe other people "can't be trusted," according to a recent Pew Research survey, which found that younger Americans were far more likely than older adults to distrust both institutions and other people. But adults of all ages did agree on one thing: They all lack confidence in elected leaders.
While united in a lack of confidence, the cohorts disagreed on whether that's a major problem. The study found that young adults (ages 18-29) were less likely than older Americans to believe that poor confidence in the federal government, the inability of Democrats and Republicans to work together, and the influence of lobbyists and special interest groups were "very big problems."