The 2018 election is over. We’re now sure to hear Democratic complaints that Republicans can’t win a close race anymore without resorting to massive voter suppression. Republicans will claim that hundreds of thousands of “illegals” cast ballots, or that late-to-be-counted ballots were somehow fabricated to give Democrats control of Congress.

It’s clear that “We the People” don’t entirely trust our electoral results, and between unreliable old equipment, newer paper trail-free electronic stuff, registration problems, arbitrary roll purging, and so on, it is entirely reasonable not to entirely trust them.

Of course problems around vote-counting are the most important source of doubt. Paper ballots, counted by hand and signed off on by precinct committees that each contain a Republican, a Democrat, and an independent, is the gold standard for believability. But it’s no longer a practical alternative, since many jurisdictions now vote by mail, and those ballots go to centers where thousands of them are counted electronically. Maybe a paper trail is all we can realistically hope for. At least it can’t, electronically, just disappear.

Something that electronics imaginably could do is create a national database of all eligible voters based on Social Security numbers that would insure against rumored votes in multiple places. And that would require action by the national government.

It’s already clear that we need new a federal voting rights law. It should mandate:

• California- and Oregon-style automatic registration, in which eligible voters are automatically enrolled when interacting with any state bureau, unless they insist on remaining unlisted.


• Easy non-election day voting, either some minimal number of days of polls open for early voting and/or “no questions asked” absentee voting, like Maine has.

• Voting equipment that is actually adequate and accurate, and comparably accessible in terms of number of voters per machine.

• An end to the Electoral College. It can be done, as a practical matter, when enough additional states sign the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, to reach the total of our 271 electoral vote “majority.” With some 170-plus electoral votes already “in the fold,” the end of this relic could imaginably be implemented in time for the 2020 election cycle.

• Election Day as a national holiday. It’s really quite difficult and inconvenient to vote on a working day. We should make both Election Day and election eve national holidays, real voting festivals. Then when fourth Thursday rolls around, we’ll have residency in a developing democracy to give thanks for. As a last desperate negotiating ploy, maybe we could make election eve Veterans Day, adding a new four-day weekend, and an additional chance for leisure activities and family gatherings. (And aren’t free, fair elections part of what veterans fought to protect?)

• California-style “jungle primaries,” and Maine’s very own ranked-choice voting. They are both real advances, enhancing the available discretion and power of our franchise. Let’s find a way to make them both more widespread.

Then there’s gerrymandering. It’s not a uniquely American form of political abuse, but we’ve developed it to a remarkable extent. In places where non-partisan commissions draw district lines, it’s notably less bad. There’s no perfect way to draw these lines, but new national guidance is clearly needed just to alleviate the worst abuses — and there will be another chance to address gerrymandering around the upcoming 2020 Census.


Certain people will oppose all of these reforms just on the grounds that they’ll require action by and funding from the national government, and we must acknowledge that they’re all likely to favor Democratic candidates. But we’ve all heard that freedom isn’t free.

Do we also need to amend the federal Constitution with a specific right to vote? Some of us wonder why the courts haven’t already found that in the Ninth Amendment. You might well ask.

Also, here we are again in Broward County, Florida, witnessing an all too likely consequence of leaving something as crucial as ballot design tocounty governments.

Democrats, please at least propose a new federal Voting Rights Act in 2019.

James Silin lives in Whitefield.

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