Voter Registration

| Sun Nov. 2, 2008 12:40 PM EST

VOTER REGISTRATION....Matt Yglesias seconds Rick Hasen's proposal to make ACORN's registration drives (and the quadrennial conservative meltdown over them) obsolete by just having the federal government do it:

The solution is to take the job of voter registration for federal elections out of the hands of third parties (and out of the hands of the counties and states) and give it to the federal government....The next president should propose legislation to have the Census Bureau, when it conducts the 2010 census, also register all eligible voters who wish to be registered for future federal elections....When people submit change-of-address cards to the post office, election officials would also change their registration information.

I'd go even further: implement a national ID and give one to everybody, free of charge. You get it when you turn 18 (or whatever), and you get a free update every five years (or whatever). Post offices would handle most of the work, and roving mobile vans would trek through rural areas periodically to make sure everyone has easy access to whichever federal agency is tasked with providing the cards. Instead of simply requiring people to have picture IDs, the federal government would do everything it could to make sure everyone actually has a picture ID, with as little hassle as possible. Once this was in place, everyone with an ID could vote on election day unless they were barred for some affirmative reason, which might still vary from state to state. No registration required.

This wouldn't be perfect. Nothing is perfect. But it would be a damn sight closer than the squirrelly system we have today, and the only real objection to it is that, by God, Americans will never accept national ID cards. No "showing of papers" here in the land of the free!

But this is ridiculous. For all practical purposes we already have a national ID system. The feds require virtually everyone to have a Social Security number, and virtually all state ID cards are based on that number. Your name is already in a zillion public and private databases keyed to your SSN number, and one more won't really change things much. You won't be required to show your papers any more than you already are. It will just be easier, cheaper, and more consistent for everyone — including students, the elderly, the poor, and minorities — which should make liberals happy. And if the govenrment affirmatively generates IDs free of charge for everyone, then there's no objection to requiring ID at polling places — which should make conservatives happy.

Which, come to think of it, is one reason we'll probably never do it. For a lot of people, it would take all the fun out of presidential elections.

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