There are so many bad things that come from using the census to allocate congressional seats and the votes in the Electoral College, that I feel like a simple idea will make them all go away.
I am going to make this a pretty short post with the idea It will help me get past some writer’s block I am facing. I want to get some content out and have been over editing everything in my head. So this may be less edited than normal, but I think you will still be able to follow what I am saying.
First, what are the problems with voting and voter turn out today?
First, there is an overall lack of voter turn out. And everyone seems to be OK with that. I am not. That is terrible. We should be turning out 75+% or more. Other places do. But if anything people want less voting, and only their specific voters to turn out.
Texas has the LOWEST VOTER turnout of ANY STATE IN THE US. (source)
What sort of things are making less people vote?
Well the obvious ones you may see in the news.
- Removing the right of people to vote. In some states, if you have a felony, you no longer get to vote. You get to keep paying taxes, and you have to obey all the laws passed, but you have no say in how your taxes are used.
An estimated 2.6 million people who have completed their sentence and probation cannot vote in the 11 States that never restore an ex-convict right to vote. Almost 8% of the African American population is affected by this disenfranchisement. Texas is one of 19 states that removes voting rights for Inmates, Parolees & people on Probation. (wiki: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Felony_disenfranchisement)(source)
- Making it harder to Register. Laws vary by State, but 17 states allow same-day registration to vote, and North Dakota has NO voter registration requirement. You show up and have a valid ID you get to vote. Texas has the most restrictive, with 14 other states, where you must register Prior to October 9th this year. (source) (wiki)
In addition to same-day registration, 15 states have approved automatic voter registration, with 2 more to vote on it this fall. When someone applies for a drivers license they automatically get register to vote unless they opt-out. Texas does not have automatic voter registration.
- Purging People who have registered. Even in states where you have registered to vote, you can be purged from the voter rolls. Some states have purged up to 10-15% of all registered voters. Many without notification. Indiana alone purged over 469,000 voters and relied on a discredited and inaccurate “name matching” system to do so. The recent evidence admitted to by the State indicates their use of that system despite agreeing to a court order not to. (source)
Texas has not provided enough data to calculate how many voters have been purged.
- Making it harder to Vote in person – Voter ID Laws. If you have the rights and have registered, you still need to get to a polling place and vote. One of the newer tools to manage voter turnout is Voter ID laws. The last decade has seen a coordinated effort to market these restrictions. Many have faced court battles since they almost always impact minorities more.
Recent news is out of North Dakota, that despite not requiring registration to vote, that a new law that requires proof of residency that necessitates a street address. Court battles are still being fought over that clause since the vast majority of Native Americans in the state do not have regular postal street addresses. (source)
Texas tightened their laws in 2011, and was in court for roughly 6 years over the restrictions. Kicked back and struck down numerous times, it was not cleared to be implemented until Jeff sessions dropped the lawsuit in Feb 2017. (source)
In addition to the Voter ID requirements, Texas has also made it harder to get a drivers license. Closing offices earlier at 5pm, Reducing staff, Wait times measured in hours, kicking outing people who were still in line promptly at 5, and eliminating weekend hours. They have for some centers added an additional weekday hour on certain days, but the Saturday hours have not been reinstituted yet. (source) (source)
- Making it harder to vote in person – closing polling stations. If you have the correct voter ID, you still need to have a polling place to go to. Recent news on this front was in Georgia where a plan to close 7 of the 9 polling places in Randolph County. Again like almost everything on the list above, this would have impacted minority voters primarily. After an intense public outcry, that plan was scrubbed. (source)(source)
- Making it harder to Vote Early or Absentee. If you cannot get to your polling place on election day due to work or travel, it is often possible to vote early or submit a ballot by mail. 13 States have no option for early voting. Texas is average on this scale, landing with the most common early voting date of October 22nd to start early voting. There is also roughly half the states that allow for earlier voting, some going back as far as Sept 21/22.
But even in states with generous early voting, you can still see signs of voter suppression and management. For example in Ohio, there is one early voting location per county, which sounds fair, but the difference in population can vary from 60,000 in one county to close to 1 million in another. (source)(source)
All of that to say, people are working to make it harder to vote. And unsurprisingly in Texas, our voter turn out is the worst in all of the US.
How can we change that? Easy.
Hopefully, I have made the case that we are doing a lot of things that make it harder to vote than it needs to be, and makes the end result look less and less like a democracy.
But I happen to have a dirt simple solution.
Instead of using the census to allocate seats in Congress, let’s use actual voters who voted.
Think about it, each state would now REALLY REALLY want to get their voters to the polls.
Want to disenfranchise over a million folks? go for it.
Want to make it hard to vote? Up to you.
The census stops being a political football. Everyone wants the maximum people to vote, and in general, we become more of a Democracy.
What would that look like if we redistributed congress based on the last election? I did some calculations and this is what I came up with.
Three of the larger States are the biggest losers. California has a total population that only say 36% of the people vote. California reported over 75% registered voter turnout, but of a population of 39 million, only 20 million are registered to vote. and Texas saw something like 33% of the population vote.
So what do you say?
I say: Let’s stop using the census to allocate seats in Congress and Electoral College votes and let’s allocate them based on who actually shows up to vote.