TURNOUT SOARED in Tuesday’s elections, with some 113 million Americans voting, by far the most of any midterm. That is undeniably good news.
On the other hand: About half of eligible voters failed to cast ballots in one of the most consequential midterm elections the country has ever faced.
It should not be difficult to vote, but in too many places it is — and in too many places Republicans are making it more difficult. Tuesday’s results underlined the importance of making voting easier, not harder. More states should follow California and Oregon in embracing automatic voter registration, which adds residents to voter rolls when they get driver’s licenses or other state services, unless they opt out. Congress should declare Election Day a federal holiday. States should allow more early voting and keep polls open longer. And, yes, they must reduce never-ending lines. Hours-long lines formed at voting locations across the country, once again, this Election Day. Absurd technical glitches, such as batteries running dry and a lack of power cables, plagued voting machines in Georgia, Indiana and Michigan.
Yet many states are trying to make the process more miserable, and for partisan reasons. Georgia became this year the poster child for imposing unnecessary hassles on voters, as the state government held up thousands of registrations that did not exactly match records in other government databases — even if the discrepancy was a missing hyphen. North Dakota’s voter-ID law made Election Day substantially harder for its Native American voters, some of whom were turned away from polling places. Arkansas and North Carolina voters approved measures to require a photo ID to vote, supposedly to combat voter fraud, which is close to nonexistent.
Yet there was good news, too. Florida voters chose to enfranchise more than 1 million former felons in the state, a breathtaking extension of voting rights that required the support of both Democratic and Republican voters to pass. Michigan voters approved an initiative demanding nonpartisan redistricting, joining states such as Arizona and California in stripping politicians of the ability to choose their own voters. Nevadans chose to institute an automatic registration system. And Kris Kobach, the pugnacious Kansas GOP gubernatorial candidate, lost. Mr. Kobach had attempted to require proof of citizenship to register to vote, a burdensome rule that would have done little to ensure vote integrity but a lot to discourage more people from registering.
This mixed picture suggests that, while the country’s democracy has far to go to ensure free and equal access to the ballot box, there is substantial public interest in improving the system. Politicians should respond.