'Cost of voting' a barrier to the poor – but it can be overcome, scholars say
Structural barriers have created a "cost to voting" that disproportionately affects low-income Americans and reduces their participation in the electoral process, according to a report issued Tuesday by a group of academics.
"Those with fewer resources — time, money, information — are 'priced out' of participating due to factors such as election timing, voter identification requirements, felony disenfranchisement, and inefficient election management," the report concludes. "The result is that wealthier people vote at much higher rates than others."
Narrowing the pool of voters, in turn, produces consequences on society, such as increasing inequality, hindering economic growth and weakening public health, according to the report, which draws on existing social science research to summarize the problem. It also offers seven recommendations to lower the "cost of voting" as well as ensure more secure and fair elections.
Pennsylvania continues to be a hotspot in the ongoing national campaign to create voting systems that are better able to fend off hacking attempts next year.
Jill Stein, the 2016 Green Party presidential candidate, recently asked a federal judge to declare state officials in violation of a court-approved agreement because they certified a voting system that doesn't generate a readable paper ballot.
And a Republican county official, after being told by state officials he would soon face legal action, changed his mind and said he would support purchasing new voting machines.
Pennsylvania's voting systems carry significance far beyond the state's borders for several reasons. Until recently, it was one of just a handful of states in which votes were still stored electronically without printed ballots. Election security experts say in order to have the best shot at surviving a hacking attempt, voting systems must generate a paper record for each ballot.
Anyone can get involved in the democracy reform movement, but it can be hard to know how to start. Now there's an online toolkit to ease the launch of state and local campaigns.
DemocracyU provides information, policy best-practices, and resources for citizens and policymakers who want to be a part of the reform movement in their community. It was launched Monday by the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan organization that advocates for tighter campaign finance rules and easier access to the polls.
"CLC seeks a future in which every American has a fair and equitable opportunity to participate in and affect the U.S. democratic process," said Catie Kelley, the group's senior policy director. "However, many people feel excluded. Voters are frustrated by an election system, and ultimately office holders, they feel do not represent them."
Major events — like an impeachment hearing— can cause a shift in societal norms, argues Sunita Sah, a Cornell University professor.
Join Grassroots Professional Network and Microsoft on Dec. 13 at an advocacy and data summit bringing together the top experts in advocacy technology, data, and strategy to discuss the tools and tactics for the upcoming year.