So What's Wrong with Our Election Systems?
No Constitutional right to vote. Raids on voter registration organizations. Strict ID. Mountains of unprocessed registration forms. Politicians competing in the elections they control. Purges. Voting machines using "dark" software election officials can't check, that leave no trace of voters' choices. Unguarded tabulating laptops. Russians oligarch poll watchers. Wiped servers. Statistical anomalies in the results. Voter roll correctors with a 300:1 false positive rate. Deceptive calls. Intimidation.
I'm not sure I want to know all this!
(You don't. But it's not going to go away if you look away.)
WE'RE STINGY ABOUT ELIGIBILITY.
American citizens do not inherently have the vote in the Constitution, and in that respect, we're in the company of Lybia and Chechnya. The Constitution allows states to define who can vote, and to restrict the franchise. Our Amendments say no one may be denied the vote based on race, sex, or the ability to pay a poll tax, say only that voting may not be restricted on the basis of race, sex, or the ability to pay a poll tax. And many states strip people who have committed a crime of their right to vote, even long after they've served their sentence. Right now, Maine and Vermont are the only states that enable every citizen, even those who are incarcerated to vote.
GETTING REGISTERED: WE MAKE IT HARD.
The US is one of only four countries in the world that puts the burden of voter registration on citizens, then blames them when the rolls are in accurate. And even citizens who do try to register can find that their paper registration doesn't get processed. In GA, one voting organization gathered 81,000 registrations only to find that only 41,000 were processed. In AZ, the incoming Secretary of State found 91,000 registrations sitting in boxes, supposedly because the state didn't know whether or not the registrants were citizens. Paper registrations are subjected to "strict accuracy" requirements, in which politicians use minor differences, or words not spelled out, to reject a voter's registration. Only 75% of our eligible voters are registered.
STAYING REGISTERED: WE MAKE THAT HARD, TOO.
Too many citizens are thrown off the voter rolls by purges. Infrequent-voter purges, which are often challenged in court, impact minorities disproportionately. And Interstate CrossCheck, an interstate records comparer used by 28 states, has a 300:1 false positive rate for duplicate records. And it maintains its records in a manner that's less secure than your Twitter account.
ACCESS: A SHELL GAME LEAVING VOTERS HOLDING THE BAG.
Does your polling place have a sidewalk? Has it been moved too frequently? Can you get there during the days or hours it's open, without losing your job? Are there enough polling places in your district? Do you need an excuse to vote absentee? Do the machines there function for the entire voting day? Are you standing in long lines? Do you have the ID your state requires -- or even know what ID that is? Have misleading robocalls or flyers, or intimidating policies, discouraged you from voting? All these tactics are deliberately used prevent eligible voters from casting a ballot. Seen this way: turnout is not the measure of electoral enthusiasm or apathy, but the measure of how easy, or hard, we make it to vote.
VERIFICATION: Ours has too many loopholes.
The public can't examine the software they use to vote. In fact, such scrutiny is often illegal. The voting software that runs on the electronic machines is considered "proprietary information" by the companies that produce it, therefor, no one, not even election officials, can access it. SLOT MACHINES IN LAS VEGAS ARE MORE CLOSELY INSPECTED THAN OUR VOTING MACHINES ARE.