[Image courtesy of Connecticut Department of Transportation]
As partisan conflict over jobs, taxes and a host of other issues has intensified in the last several months, so too has the conflict over election policy - in particular, voter ID.
I've already made it pretty clear that I don't buy the dominant narrative - namely, that election policy debates are purely partisan fights aimed at creating favorable conditions for the 2012 Presidential election. I believe that those debates are more about the different policy views held by the parties and that by recognizing this we can identify and seize opportunities to make changes to our election system that serve voters while at the same time respecting the deeply-held views of both major parties.
If that's the least bit intriguing to you, then today is your lucky day.
At 10am this morning (Monday, September 19), the American Enterprise Institute will co-host an event with my former colleagues at the Pew Center on the States entitled "Bringing Voter Registration into the 21st Century."
AEI's blog post on the event sums it up nicely:
Like most things in Washington, there doesn't seem to be a lot of bipartisan cooperation on election reform issues. Generally, liberals and Democrats want to maximize access to voting, while conservatives and Republicans want to minimize the chances of voter fraud. So while liberals accuse conservatives of limiting Americans' ability to vote (via ID requirements, for example), conservatives accuse liberals of turning a blind eye to fraud.
However, there is one area in which liberals and conservatives find some common ground: both sides agree that the voter registration system is outdated and inefficient. Because voter rolls aren't kept clean and up-to-date, some voters show up on registration lists in more than one state, and this could open the door to fraud. Additionally, high numbers of new voter registrations tend to arrive at election offices in the weeks prior to an election--a time when staff is already stretched thin. This leads to more errors in voter information on the rolls.
[A]t AEI, we will host "Bringing Voter Registration into the 21st Century," an event hosting two bipartisan panels to discuss the problems with the current U.S. voter registration system and ways to fix them.
The approach these panels will discuss - one which uses the latest technology to assist states with populating and maintaining their voter rolls - offers a genuine opportunity to address many of the kinds of problems which I believe have been exacerbating current election policy debates. Pew's election team has been working for over a year with a bipartisan group of election officials, technologists and academics to devise this way forward - which they call "upgrading voter registration" and they are justifiably excited about its prospects for success.
It's so easy in the current charged political environment to focus on disagreement and conflict - but doing the hard work of identifying solutions and then making them happen is far more satisfying in the long run.
The election policy field desperately needs some good news - and this morning's event definitely qualifies. Do yourself a favor and check out today's event - whether in person or via the webcast (which will be available on the event page) - and then feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.