September Dawn Bottoms/The New York Times

Should Voting Be Easy?

Since the 2020 election, state legislatures across the country have been busy passing voting laws. At least 26 states have enacted laws expanding voting access, including making it easier to request a mail-in ballot and lengthening early voting periods. Other states are moving in the opposite direction, with 18 having passed laws that in some way restrict voting access. These include measures that reduce the number of polling places or voting hours, restrict mail-in ballots, or require proof of citizenship.  


This flurry of voting legislation points to a fundamental philosophical divide about how we should see voting: something that should be as easy as possible or a responsibility that should be carefully protected. Two voting experts—one from a voting rights group and one from a conservative think tank—face off about whether voting should be easy.

Voting is our most fundamental right, a tremendous privilege, and a responsibility. A democracy that values equal participation makes voting simple for everyone.

When we debate whether voting should be easy, we’re really asking who should have additional barriers placed before them. We know where those burdens hit hardest: on young people and communities of color.

In Georgia, for example, if you vote after 7 p.m.—as many working people do—you’ll wait 51 minutes in line if your polling place is 90 percent people of color, according to a Stanford University analysis of voting data. And if your polling place is more than 90 percent White? Then the line typically lasts just six minutes.

Until recently, there were two bad options if you were among the 55,000 students at the University of Florida in Gainesville and wanted to participate in early voting but didn’t have a car. You could hike 32 minutes to the supervisor of elections’ office or take an hour-long bus ride. Students asked for an early voting center on campus. Local officials said no. They said voting matters so much that students should work harder to make their voices heard. So students organized shuttles and drove campus turnout numbers high above the national average.

We enhance democracy when we make voting easy—and accessible—for everyone.

Early voting, mail-in-voting, automatic voter registration, and other advances have proved popular and secure. They don’t lead to fraud; a database kept by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, shows fewer than 1,400 instances of voter fraud since 1982. That’s an incredibly small number considering that many hundreds of millions of ballots have been cast in the U.S. during that time.

No one should have to prove how much they want to vote by enduring long waits or surmounting obstacles—especially when those barriers are higher based on race or socioeconomics. It’s a right that belongs to us all equally. We enhance democracy when we make voting easy—and accessible—for everyone.



Senior Fellow, FairVote

The idea that voting should be easy is appealing for two reasons. First, there’s a shameful history in America of deliberately making voting hard to disenfranchise certain groups. Second, making voting easier seems likely to make more people vote.

But voting shouldn’t be as easy as ordering something on Amazon. In-person voting builds trust in the system. Distrust in our electoral system’s legitimacy is a much more serious civic problem than less-than-perfect voter turnout. It would get worse if we made voting easier. Having to show up at a poll station may seem like a drag, but most people will see that system as less vulnerable to hacking and manipulation than voting online or mail-in ballots.

In our fast-paced world, there’s a certain appreciation that you get more out of certain activities, such as preparing food or reading books, when you slow them down. We should think of voting like that. Voting’s more of a civic ritual than just a matter of consumer choice.

Voting is important, so it shouldn’t be as easy as ordering something on Amazon.

You think of your neighbor differently when you run into him at a polling station. You may never have discussed with him the war in Ukraine, climate change, or taxes, but seeing him voting shows that he, like you, cares about such larger affairs. It turns out you share more with him than you realized. That effect would be lost if voting came down to pointing and clicking.

Is it too much to ask that we put up with some inconvenience to vote, a right for which, over the ages, countless people have given their lives? If voting’s truly important to you, having to wait 30 minutes outside the voting booth should be seen as a burden worth bearing—particularly if you’re willing to wait twice that long in the line at the Apple Store.

We must oppose barriers that make voting harder for some people than others. But those are different from general inconveniences, such as having to get up early to hit the polls before work, which we all share. The costs of eliminating all such inconveniences would outweigh the benefits.



Senior Fellow, Manhattan Institute

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