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Future Hindsight is a weekly podcast that aims to spark civic engagement through in-depth conversations with citizen changemakers. American democracy is a living, breathing mechanism whose well-being deserves to be cultivated and protected, and now more than ever, the need to be an engaged citizen is critical. We explore how each of us has the power to shape our society and fulfill our shared civic responsibility.

Oct 27, 2018

The Powers of Voting

Voting is our civic duty and our opportunity to participate in our democracy. We can hold our leaders accountable and also express what we believe this country can and should be. Voting means a lot to people in traditionally disenfranchised communities because it serves as an important expression of who we are as citizens. If it weren’t powerful, nobody would try to suppress our right to vote.

Voter Suppression

Strict voter ID laws, voter roll purges, early voting cutbacks, and documentary proof of citizenship are the most effective ways to disenfranchise voters. Since the wave election in 2010, at least 23 states have enacted voter suppressive laws that are in place for this year’s election. This trend was made worse when the Supreme Court struck down Section 4 in “Shelby County vs. Holder” in 2013, which eviscerated the pre-clearance process and made room for states to enact stricter voting laws without oversight from the federal government.

Expansive Pro-Voter Laws

The most promising and bipartisan way to expand the electorate is through modernization provisions, such as online voter registration and Automatic Voter Registration (AVR). Some studies in Oregon have shown that AVR also boosts voter turnout. With increased adoption of AVR across states, it will be more widely implemented over time. Other effective measures are Election Day Registration, expanding Early Voting, and restoring the right to vote to former felons who have completed the terms of their sentence.

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Max Feldman serves as Counsel in the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU School of Law, where he focuses on voting rights and elections.