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Lawmaker Suggests Making Voting Harder Because ‘If There’s Something You Can’t Have, You Want It Even More’

California Assembly Minority Leader Kristin Olsen (R) CREDIT: AP PHOTO/RICH PEDRONCELLI
California Assembly Minority Leader Kristin Olsen (R) CREDIT: AP PHOTO/RICH PEDRONCELLI

Like a teenager playing hard to get, if the government were to just make voting harder more people would want to do it, according to California’s Assembly GOP Leader.

Rather than supporting steps to ease barriers to the ballot box, State Rep. Kristin Olsen (R) argued on the Broeske & Musson radio program last week that California’s low voter turnout rates are because the state makes it too easy to vote.

The solution in her mind: make it harder to vote so people want it more.

“It’s just like anything in life, if there’s something you can’t have, you want it even more,” Olsen told the radio hosts. “Maybe we do need to make it harder and that that in and of itself would increase participation.”

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Olsen also noted her displeasure with the spate of new bills to protect voting rights in California, such as Election Day registration and a new push to automatically register voters (with an option to opt-out) when they sign up for a driver’s license. These initiatives could boost voter turnout by millions in a state that has continually lagged the national average. (In 2014, for example, just 30 percent of the eligible voting population in California cast a ballot, compared to 36 percent nationwide.)

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Though few have argued it would increase participation, conservatives across the country have fought for years to pass new bills that would suppress millions of voters in an effort to stamp out voting fraud, which is virtually non-existent in the United States. These measures have included requiring certain forms of government issued photo identification to cast a ballot, requiring people to prove their citizenship (using documentation like a birth certificate) in order to register, putting onerous restrictions on groups that help register people like the League of Women Voters, and shortening early voting periods.

Other states, including California and Colorado, have gone the other way, passing new legislation to protect and strengthen the right to vote by eliminating barriers to the ballot box, such as arbitrary deadlines to register. Allowing Election Day registration alone has been shown to boost a state’s turnout rate by anywhere from seven to fourteen percentage points.

Olsen noted that as a result of this reform in California, “It is not hard to vote.” She didn’t mean it as a compliment.