Editorial | Voting needs to be more accessible

By The Pitt News Editorial Board

The midterm elections have arrived and the stakes have never been higher. Unfortunately, many people have not been able to exercise their right to vote — but not without trying.

Between voter registration difficulties, mail-in ballots arriving too late or not at all as well as long lines at polling stations it isn’t always easy to vote. And it shouldn’t be this difficult. The number of steps and challenges that it takes to vote in the U.S. is different from many countries, and it’s absolutely unjust. Voting is a right and people deserve to have access to voting.

Voter registration laws have gotten much more extreme, making it much harder for people to vote. Voter ID laws, which require specific forms of identification, disenfranchise eligible voters who may not have a driver’s license or a government-issued ID. Additionally, it costs money to obtain an ID, which also disenfranchises lower-income Americans — who are twice as likely to not have these documents compared to higher-income Americans. More than 11 million Americans do not have government-issued IDs and deserve the right to vote just as much as everyone else does. 

Additionally, unlike most other countries, voter registration is decentralized and it’s up to voters to register themselves. Other countries have automatic voter registration, national holidays on Election Day which give people the time to vote and, even in extreme cases, charge a fine to those who don’t vote. The U.S. needs to make it easier to register and give time off for people to vote.

Mail-in ballots are another difficult barrier to voting. While mail-in ballots allow people to vote in their home state when they live elsewhere — an advantage many college students appreciate — sometimes the mail-in ballots come in too late to mail back or may not even arrive at all. While in Pennsylvania we have the ability to vote early or place mail-in ballots at a drop-off location rather than mail them, there are still issues, such as incorrectly dated or undated mail-in ballots, that could disenfranchise voters. 

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has barred election officials from counting ballots with the incorrect or missing date on the return envelope. Officials in Allegheny County and Philadelphia County have released lists of incorrect ballots on Monday, which note that about 1,000 ballots in Allegheny County could be disqualified due to a simple mistake of not adding the date correctly. 

Voting at specific polling places can also be inaccessible to many people. In places like Wisconsin, North Carolina and Florida where early voting has been eliminated or reduced, many polling places have lines that take hours to vote. Many people do not have the time to wait many hours since they have work or other responsibilities. However, they deserve to vote just as much as anyone else. 

Additionally, urban areas with primarily African American and Latino populations often have to wait for the longest, which contributes to the disenfranchisement of non-white voters in this country which is absolutely unfair. 

Voting needs to be accessible so that everyone can exercise their democratic right to vote. Accessibility is a right, not a privilege. Your vote and voice matter.