That’s really the question that Kevin Drum is tackling in his posts on voter fraud (first one, second one).
Look, it’s not as if there’s no history to this. There have always been Americans who believed that everyone should vote...and there have always been Americans who want a better electorate. In my experience, those attitudes (as opposed to the way they’re deployed politically) are not partisan. Get in a discussion with a decent-sized group, liberals or conservatives, ask the right questions, and you’ll soon reveal that several people don’t really think that it’s right that the ignorant have the same voice on Election Day as the well educated.
It’s not a crazy position! Reading through the comments on my “voting stories” posts, you’ll find people who clearly have spent a good deal of time and energy figuring out how to vote for a bunch of obscure offices. But we know that they’re in the extreme minority; most of the people who vote on Tuesday will be taking wild guesses on many items, certainly on non-partisan offices and ballot questions. I can understand those who believe it’s somehow unfair or unjust.
But they are wrong. In a democracy, the people rule. All of them. Not just the well-educated. Not just the well-informed. Not just the intelligent. Everyone. At various times within any democratic political system, all sorts of people have outsized influence, but on Election Day, in casting our ballots, we’re all supposed to be equal. One person, one vote.
So I support a system that makes voting a lot easier than it is. That’s why I think our long ballot should be shorter. That’s one of the reasons I don’t like ballot measures, or non-partisan elections. It’s also why I think formal barriers to voting should be eliminated -- all citizens, including felons, should be on the rolls, as should at least teenagers, if not younger children. Ex-felons? It’s a national disgrace that they’re barred in many places.
When there are trade-offs, I would always choose easier participation, even if it risks hanky-panky. I’d like to see registration eliminated as a barrier to voting. Voter registration should be automatic, and it should follow people around so they don’t have to re-register every time they move. Would that, on balance, increase the chances of fraud? Yup. Do I care? Nope. To be as clear as I can...if automatic registration would mean, say, an extra million citizens voting, but ten of those are dead people who get voted by some devious corrupt pol...yes, that’s a good deal for democracy.
When it comes to voting, I’m going to choose lower hurdles every time.