500 word essay for Pitt Scholarship on What You Would change about the world and why?
Every year, when October 9th approaches in Pennsylvania, the freaky pumpkins sit on the neighbor’s porch; the orange foliage a sight in the chilly wind and best of all: the voter campaign signs strewn across every street corner of the various candidates in the election.
For me, that means hauling out the red “Register to Vote Here” sign and encouraging fellow Americans to partake in their civic duty. But just as the Halloween costumes are up on store shelves, so are the same people who consistently refuse my mailers -
“I’m not very political.”
“My vote doesn’t matter.”
“I’m too lazy to vote. Besides, I don’t got no driver’s license.”
According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s most recent Voting and Registration Supplement, 21.4 percent were not registered to vote in 2014, and several of these voters, unsurprisingly, lack the confidence that their decisions create any sort of impact on their communities (Pew).
And many Americans hold valid concerns: most adults are stuck earning their paycheck at their job without a day off; others have difficulty finding reliable transportation to and from their polling place, and a few citizens do not carry driver’s licenses and may not know their social security by heart. While I do my best annually to encourage my unregistered counterparts to register for the election, I can’t help but find it irksome how voter registration and voting have proven to be an inconvenience for the average American. Although it won’t magically create a streamlined process for active participation, I propose establishing an Automatic Voter Registration (AVR) system for all 50 states.
Each state will be required to adopt the following measures:
Automatic Voter Registration
Early Teen Registration
Ability to Register at the Polls
The proposed structure is designed to increase voter participation by eliminating bureaucratic obstacles.
Only 14 out of the 50 states have adopted AVR in the past few years, the first of them being Oregon back in 2016. Shifting the responsibility of operating elections, the bill, signed by Governor Kate Brown, ultimately put the burden of voter registration on the states instead of the citizens. According to research conducted by the Center for American Progress, Oregon’s AVR system introduced 272,000 newly registered voters with more than 98,000 participating in the November 2016 election. Furthermore, “as a result of AVR, Oregon’s electorate is now more representative of the state’s population” including younger, lower-income, and diverse citizens. Previously disengaged voters are now partaking in decision-making that affects their local residence, state and country. Several other states have approved and enacted AVR systems similar to Oregon while the rest are still piecing together valuable legislation eventually to be submitted for approval by their respective legislative bodies.
As much as I enjoy pumpkin spice lattes at a Voter Registration table in November, we may still hear the groans and sighs, but with the ratification of my proposal, I and other political activists can spend our time doing far more important things…. Campaigning!
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