Citizens should be automatically registered to vote, increases democracy

Illustration by Rewon Shimray

As a democratic nation, citizens of the United States are given the privilege to vote, which is something that not all nations provide. Sadly, a portion of our population squanders this right by failing to register to vote, and in turn, not voting at all.

As of Aug. 28, 2017, 10 U.S. states and the District of Columbia have implemented automatic registration, a system that greatly increases the number of citizens registered to vote. In addition, 32 states have submitted legislation in favor of automatic registration, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law.

This has been done in hopes that in being automatically registered, people will be more inclined to vote once Election Day rolls around.

During the election period in 2016, only 70 percent of voting age citizens were registered to vote and overall, only 55.7 percent of the U.S. voting age population cast ballots, according to the 2016 U.S. Census Bureau figures.

These turnout numbers are a disgrace in comparison to some of the nations around the world. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), out of the 35 countries that are part of the organization, the U.S. was ranked 28th on voter turnout last year.

While some of the countries who had a higher voter turnout exercise compulsory voting, such as Belgium, who was ranked No. 1 on the OECD ratings, other countries, such as Sweden, who was ranked No. 2, have only implemented automatic voter registration and still maintain a high turnout.

In Sweden, citizens are not required to vote, but the government automatically registers them when they apply to the Swedish Tax Agency. They must re-apply every 10 years to be included on the electoral roll, but once they take care of this, their voter registration requirement has also been fulfilled in one swoop. In consequence, 96 percent of Swedish citizens are registered to vote and 82.6 percent of their citizens voted.

In the United States, in is not yet common to be automatically registered to vote when one re-registers for their license at 18 years old, nor is it custom they automatically registered to vote after an 18th birthday. This requires many U.S. residents to summon up the motivation to register, and to ensure that they are registered on time in order to be able to cast a ballot.

Parts of our nation have taken steps forward to implement automatic registration, and others have made it easier to register, by providing a service that allows one to register online. But, our country as a whole has not yet applied this service, and registration rates continue to stay down. Additionally, other states still comply with the guidelines that require one to mail their voter registration form in, something that could deter citizens from registering.

If the entire United States were to implement automatic voter registration, the overall turnout would most likely be higher. It would fight voter suppression, and eliminate the trouble of having to register, which would save time. Then, people who either forgot to register, or did not have enough time to register, would still have the ability to vote on election day.

While our country is advanced in many technological and economical ways, we must now turn our attention to increasing voter turnout and expanding the involvement citizens have in choosing leaders of our nation. Making this process as effortless as possible will appeal to many in our nation by increasing efficiency. Hopefully, this will create a way for us to seamlessly include every member of our nation in the voting process.