During a speech in Austin, Texas, on Tuesday, Eric Holder provided an exhaustive summary of the mostly bigoted and partisan efforts to disenfranchise voters across the country, and somewhere buried toward the end he came out with a brilliant idea:

“All eligible citizens can and should be automatically registered to vote.”

Even when voters aren’t under assault from unethical campaigns that lie to opponents’ supporters or corrupt officials who gerrymander districts or erroneously purge voters of a particular ethnicity from the rolls, just registering citizens can be a nightmare.

“According to the Census Bureau,” Holder said, “of the 75 million adult citizens who failed to vote in the last presidential election, 60 million of them were not registered and, therefore, not eligible to cast a ballot.”

The problem is “our antiquated registration system,” he explains. “Fortunately, modern technology provides a straightforward fix for these problems — if we have the political will to bring our election systems into the 21st century. It should be the government’s responsibility to automatically register citizens to vote, by compiling — from databases that already exist — a list of all eligible residents in each jurisdiction.”

It’s a field organizer’s dream come true. Too bad it will never happen.

Both parties know with some certainty how demographics vote. African-American and Latino voters break overwhelmingly for the Democrats, so it’s no surprise that in Texas, where the population is surging with new Latino voters, the state’s Republican Legislature has drawn new districts that keep Latino voting power diluted.

In his speech, Holder addressed some of those concerns. He also has a political stake in registering as many voters as possible. President Obama was able to win in 2008 with the help of new voters and it behooves the attorney general’s party to expand the electorate. It also happens to be the right thing to do.

In the words of the AG himself, “The ability to vote is a right — it is not a privilege.”

(Read Holder’s entire speech here.)

— Peter Z. Scheer

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