There seems to be a rather confusing debate raging in this country about voting rights. There are some who say every vote needs to be verified. There are others who say everyone should have the opportunity to vote. I think the confusion comes from viewing voting rights as an either/or issue rather than both/and.
Few of us, myself included, would argue that we don’t need to make sure every vote is from the person voting. And, few of us would argue that extending voting rights should be a national priority in a country with such poor voter turnouts.
The issues that arise seem more confused by those who claim they want to make sure every vote is legitimate but end up restricting voting when there are few voter frauds in any state. They are offering a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist, even while the concept seems fair–making sure the person voting is actually the registered voter.
For someone like myself who supports the extension of voting rights in this country and who went South long ago to stand with those who had been denied those rights because of their race–and who also supports the need to make sure every voter is properly registered, I don’t see why we can’t see that both concerns are ethically and politically good for our democracy–extend the right to vote and make sure every vote is legitimate. Surely in a somewhat technologically advanced country such as ours we can figure out how to extend voting by having more than one day on which to vote, more online voting, more hours in which to vote, etc. At the same time, surely we can find ways to certify who is voting and provide persons with a card that will not require them to travel to a distant office to register.
I remember Ronald Reagan negotiating an arms deal with the Soviets and selling it by saying his motto was “trust and verify.” Surely we can do the same for the most basic of all rights: the right to vote. A vote is a terrible thing to lose.