You would think that everyone in a democracy, whatever their various political perspectives, would agree that free, unfettered access to the ballot box is a fundamental right, and that we can all unite on that. Incredibly lots of political operatives and machine politicians spend huge amounts of time and money suppressing the vote—making registration tough or impossible, disenfranchising citizens with a criminal record, sending around false information about polling places, and more. This is why the electorate has always looked remarkably different from the citizenry, why presidential elections in particular are decided by a minority, and it’s why the voting booth has been a site of struggle for over 200 years.
A robust and participatory democracy would mean that every citizen could find a good reason to vote and would be assured that exercising the vote, a fundamental human and civil right, is an open and easy process which is visible and accessible. Every vote would count and every citizen could vote. Access to the ballot has been a long and hard-fought process, but full enfranchisement and unimpaired access is still far from a reality.
Full enfranchisement includes allowing former and current inmates to cast their ballots in local, state, and federal elections. Other countries do this. Incarcerated persons are still citizens; half a million incarcerated people are released each year, and they have a stake in the political process. Easy same day registration means that even demanding work schedules and family responsibilities will not impede access to the ballot. Campaign finance reform and public funding of political campaigns would allow someone who is not a millionaire to run for public office, and would blunt the influence of rich benefactors. The Electoral College is a living legacy of slavery and must be overturned in favor of a National Popular Vote. And instant run-off voting, in which voters rank their choices and it takes a majority rather than a plurality to win, can begin to break the strangle-hold of big party machines.
These changes would be baby steps toward making every vote count.