By now it's a dreary and predictable chain of events: A national, state or local election is held; the voter turnout is appallingly low, and then there are the inevitable editorials decrying the downward trend in participation in democracy.
But there is a practical way to begin to address the problem: Get more Americans registered to vote.
Do newly registered voters indeed vote? Apparently. In states where voter registration is most convenient, turnout rates in 1988 were 12% to 16% percentage points higher than the national average.
Then why haven't more state legislatures, and Congress, made it easier to register to vote--perhaps through an automatic process?
Such suggestions have generated concern, which for the most part has centered on voter fraud. But the potential for fraud is great even in the current hodgepodge system, which too often relies on volunteers who are working for partisan political campaigns.
Voter registration could be made as routine as renewing your driver's license.
A bill that will be reintroduced in September in the Senate would bring what is called universal voter registration to the United States. Sponsored by Sens. Wendell H. Ford (D-Ky.) and Mark O. Hatfield (R-Ore.), it is an honest and worthwhile attempt to take the United States out of last place among the major democracies in terms of national-election voting rate.