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Voter registration: Shrouded in mystery and misunderstood

Voter registration, much like the Electoral College, doesn’t seem to matter until it intersects with our lives. Then, it really matters.

This weekend, we wrap up the final race in the mid-term elections, the race for a Louisiana Senate seat between Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) and Rep. Bill Cassidy (R). In what at first seemed to be one of the most important Senate races, only 16,000 voters kept Landrieu in the race. Then, the Republicans took the Senate, and interest faded. However, it’s still worth a moment to stop and think about the registration process that each of those voters went through, since every election cycle brings the inevitable debate about voter’s rights.

For those of us who have lived in the same town for a ridiculously long time, who have a driver’s license photo that actually resembles us, and have a fairly blank slate as far as law enforcement records go, registration is a seemingly simple process. You go to the library, show your ID, sign on the line, vote, and get a sticker for all your well-behaved children on the way out. However, there is more happening behind the scenes. If your name, picture and ID all match up to your physical appearance at the time, they will require no more proof and ask if you want to register to vote. A hit or question on any one of them, or any discrepancy at all, requires additional authorization on your part in the form of additional ID, proof of residency, proof of legitimacy or additional questions to be asked and answered.

These are the facts, and whether the hit comes up because you dyed your hair, lost 200 pounds, or had a rash of speeding tickets, you’re going to have a more difficult time voting. But, the debate goes on because no one ever welcomes the facts. Many pundits argue if you are anything other than white or middle class, they require more of you before they ask if you would like to register to vote. But their arguments are often based on the experience of a single person or a small number of people who move every year, recently moved, have several tickets or have wildly different appearances than their photo IDs.

People see what they want to see and connect dots they want connected.

Truth is, the government has no single database with every bit of information on you that can be easily searched. Yes, this is contrary to everything that the conspiracy channels preach and all the foreboding of “Minority Report”, but it’s true. When you are registering to vote, a human eye is still required to compare several pieces of data and verify if you are who you say you are and if you are eligible to vote. In the employment screening industry, this is something we deal with daily. The myth of a centralized database is pervasive, and it is simply that—a myth.

As the race approaches this Saturday, if you are eligible, we hope you will take your right to vote seriously. Even though a dye job can make the process more challenging, it is part of the great American democracy that we call home.

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