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Voter Support – Helping Americans Overcome Barriers to the VoteVoter Support – Helping Americans Overcome Barriers to the Vote

Voter Support

Voter Support involves helping Americans overcome obstacles to voting. These challenges can be caused by factors such as long wait times at polling places, fewer opportunities to vote by mail, limited accessibility at polling places for people with disabilities, and the difficulty of understanding information about candidates and their platforms. Americans are deeply divided over how best to address these problems, but most agree that the most important step is ensuring that every eligible American can exercise their right to vote without barriers.

To ensure that all citizens can vote without obstacles, the federal government works with local and state agencies to provide information about voter registration and voting procedures. Voters can find out where and when to go to the polls by checking their local board of elections website, or by calling the office. Voters with questions can also call the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division’s Voting Rights Section.

The Center for Voter Information provides resources to help voters locate and navigate their polling places. Voters can also request an absentee ballot from their local board of elections. When requesting an absentee ballot, it is recommended that the requestor include their driver’s license or other form of identification with their application. For voters who do not have a driver’s license or ID, they can submit a written explanation of their circumstances and sign a “reasonable impediment” declaration in addition to presenting another form of identification.

Many Americans are disproportionately burdened by barriers to the ballot box, especially those in rural areas and those who lack access to transportation or have physical or mental health conditions. The Center’s Voter Support Initiative leverages the full spectrum of the government’s assets to support these communities in their efforts to increase voter participation.

In our latest national polling, the overwhelming majority of Americans support reforms to make it easier for everyone to exercise their right to vote. In particular, Americans are highly supportive of requiring states to follow national redistricting standards, requiring that corporations disclose their donors, and allowing people convicted of felonies to vote after they have served their sentences.

Americans are also overwhelmingly supportive of other elements of the For the People Act, our bipartisan bill to restore democracy and give voters more power over their elected officials. Almost 80 percent of voters support provisions to protect election offices from intimidation and interference, and to create standards for handling election equipment.

In addition to our work to support the most vulnerable voters, we are working with social service organizations and the social work profession to integrate voting engagement into training for social workers and other human services professionals. To this end, the Humphreys Institute offers a free online course for professionals, and we are developing resources that can be used by individuals or groups. For example, we are creating a toolkit of resources and strategies that can be used by schools to inform their students about voting options and how to register.

The Importance of ElectionsThe Importance of Elections


Elections are the principal means through which citizens exercise their right to choose their leadership and representatives. When properly conducted they are a vital instrument for maintaining democracy and democratic accountability.

Elections establish a link between government of the day and public opinion (views shared by the majority of voters). They are also a key source of democratic legitimacy. They make governments publicly accountable to the people and ultimately removable from power. They demonstrate to the citizenry that they have chosen to be governed.

Moreover, democratic elections are important for the maintenance of political stability and social cohesion. They serve as the institutional connection between citizens and their government (Kirkpatrick, 1995a). Low turnout in general elections undermines democratic legitimacy and reinforces popular suspicion of their efficacy.

The concept of democratic elections emerged from the gradual emergence of representative government in Europe and America. This concept of representation replaced the holistic notion of representing estates, corporations and vested interests with one that emphasized the individual. The democratization of elections was accelerated by the expansion of universal suffrage in the 1950s and ’60s following decolonization in many countries. While a number of these countries later reverted to authoritarian forms of rule, many remained democracies and continued to employ competitive elections.

In the United States, the constitution vests the responsibility for regulating congressional elections in the states, subject to certain limitations set forth in the Elections Clause. The framers intended for Congress to be able to step in and regulate congressional elections if either state law or a state election procedure violated the federal constitution. This was a built-in self-defense mechanism that protected the nation from anarchy.

Competitive elections are essential for the democratic process because they allow for the emergence of competing political parties and ideologies. Without competition, the democratic system loses its ability to represent all the views of the electorate.

Competition also allows defeated political leaders to reenter the democratic arena at a future date. They can do so by running as a candidate for another political party or in some cases, through private means such as writing or teaching. In a pluralistic society, defeated politicians may find other ways to contribute to political debate through non-governmental organizations or the media.

The United States uses a unique electoral system that differs significantly from other democratic systems. Unlike most countries where electors vote for senators and members of the House of Representatives on a district basis, in the United States, voters cast two votes for President and one for Vice President. Those who win the most electoral votes, in each state, become president and vice president. The system has its problems, but it does work. Whether or not all states use it in the same way, a consistent application of election law is necessary to protect the integrity of the electoral process. Observation is a critical tool to ensure that elections are carried out in a fair and just manner.