Democracy on wheels


June 18, 1992|By Richard A. Cloward & Frances F. Piven

A BILL that would raise national voter registration from 60 percent to 95 percent was passed by the House Tuesday, 268 to 153, with 28 Republicans joining the majority.

The Senate passed an identical bill last month (61 to 38, with six Republicans in the majority).

But the Office of Management and Budget has announced that "senior advisers would recommend a veto."

Roughly 90 percent of eligible voters would be registered when they get or renew drivers' licenses, which is why the legislation is commonly called the "motor voter" bill.

Many non-drivers would be signed up when they applied for unemployment and welfare benefits.

The disabled would be enrolled by vocational rehabilitation agencies.

The budget office says this would impose unwarranted costs on states and facilitate fraud. Both arguments are phony.

Thirty states already have motor voter programs; not one has reported fraud and all report costs of less than 50 cents per registrant.

Besides, motor voter states have higher turnout than states without the program.

Why would a Republican president veto a fraud-free, cost-effective measure to expand democracy?

Probably for the same reason that most congressional Republicans oppose the bill: Registration would rise dramatically among the poor and minorities, who tend to vote Democratic.

So much for the party of Lincoln.

Richard A. Cloward and Frances F. Piven are co-founders of Human Serve, a voter-registration reform group.

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