Better Than Billionaires


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Automatic Voter Registration Allows More Americans’ Voices To Be Heard

“Who’s your billionaire?” Now more than ever, any serious presidential candidate needs to have an answer for this question. Over the weekend, we found out who the answer for Senator Marco Rubio is: Norman Braman, a billionaire auto dealer from Miami.

Braman isn’t just supporting Rubio’s White House bid to the expected tune of $10 million; he has been a key figure in Rubio’s professional and personal life for many years. Here is the New York Times report:

As Mr. Rubio has ascended in the ranks of Republican politics, Mr. Braman has emerged as a remarkable and unique patron. He has bankrolled Mr. Rubio’s campaigns. He has financed Mr. Rubio’s legislative agenda. And, at the same time, he has subsidized Mr. Rubio’s personal finances, as the rising politician and his wife grappled with heavy debt and big swings in their income.

To state the obvious: The increasing influence of big money in politics from donors like Norman Braman, the Koch Brothers, and others, drowns out the voices of everyday Americans in the political process. There are a number of ways to combat this threat to democracy; one big target for reformers is to overturn the judicial decisions like Citizens United that have opened the floodgates to unlimited spending on elections. That is a critical fight.

Here is another important way to make it easier for all citizens to have their voices heard: make voting more accessible. One of the most progressive methods for doing that is called Automatic Voter Registration (AVR), a system by which states would integrate information from existing government databases — such as departments of motor vehicles, the Postal Service, revenue agencies, and others — to compile and update the voting rolls with information that they already collect. Oregon just became the first state in the country to implement this type of system, and it expects to add 300,000 people to voter rolls as a result.

Now, a new report from the Center for Popular Democracy outlines some of the transformative impacts AVR would have across the country. If Automatic Voter Registration were adopted in all states, it would potentially result in 55 million new voters added to the rolls.

AVR would result in the registration of currently underrepresented communities as well, including approximately:

  • 17 million new Black and Latino registrants
  • 31 million registrants under age 45
  • 29 million registrants with an annual income of $50,000 or less

While most voting rights news focuses on the concerted efforts by conservatives to suppress the vote, especially among disadvantaged communities, automatic voter registration is gaining momentum. California, which just advanced its own AVR bill late last month, could be the next state to take this important step.

BOTTOM LINE: With our campaign finance laws continuing to loosen, millionaires and billionaires will only increase the amount of influence they exert in our political process. But there are important steps being taken to counter them: policies like automatic voter registration would register millions of voters, raise voter turnout, and make our democracy healthier and more representative of its citizens.