January 23, 2009

Tokaji on "Voter Registration and Institutional Reform: Lessons from a Historic Election"

Dan Tokaji has written this piece for the Harvard Law and Policy Review's online series on Proposals for the New Administration. Here is the abstract:

    Posterity will recall 2008 as the year in which the United States of America elected its first African American President. Given the historic significance of this election, it is tempting to sweep aside the election administration issues that have dominated the last two presidential election cycles, but a closer look reveals that serious problems with the infrastructure of American democracy remain. Topping the list is voter registration, which turned out to be the election administration issue of 2008, just as were voting machines in 2000 and provisional ballots in 2004. Across the country, battles emerged over the conduct of registration drives and the maintenance of registration lists, with those on the right mostly concerned that lax practices would lead to fraudulent voting and those on the left worried that eligible voters would be left off the lists. This article attempts to contextualize and disentangle the current debate over voter registration, suggesting a framework for federal reform. The time has come to consider seriously a greater federal role in maintaining voter registration lists, perhaps moving to a universal registration system for federal elections. But for such registration reform to succeed, it is necessary to create a federal institution capable of administering registration in a fair and neutral manner. Institutional reform is thus a necessary prerequisite to systemic improvements in voter registration and, ultimately, to a more inclusive and representative electorate.

I very much look forward to reading this piece.

Posted by Rick Hasen at January 23, 2009 02:39 PM