Ostensibly, universal voting is the ideal of a free and democratic republic; however, barriers have been placed between many citizens and the ballot box ever since the creation of the United States. Many of these obstacles, such as property ownership and the racially-biased poll tax, have been removed. They are, however, being replaced by voter identification (ID) laws and other voter suppression schemes designed to discourage and prevent many, otherwise eligible voters from participating in elections. Voter suppression takes many forms and—in its aggregate—could allow the election of a president in the November 2016 election who is not the choice of the American People.
Approximately one quarter of all qualified voters are not registered, and many state laws and administrative practices are aimed at blocking—rather than encouraging—their enrollment. These include the imposition of arbitrarily short deadlines for the submission of voter registration forms; imposing harsh penalties for administrative errors; and even requiring the forms to be printed on very specific weights of paper. On the other hand, some states such as California, automatically register all eligible voters when they apply for driver’s licenses, and a number of states now allow online registration.
Other devices to suppress voting involve the unnecessary purging of registration rolls to remove qualified people; the deliberate misallocation of election resources resulting in long lines in low-income and college precincts; misleading voters regarding procedures and locations for voting; and “caging,” which involves sending certified letters to voters and striking registrations for those whose letters are returned as undeliverable. Scandalous as these plots may be, they verge on criminal conspiracies when they are directed by politically partisan secretaries of state and other officials who have the responsibility to ensure elections are fair and unbiased.