Commentary: Reforming voter registration would be a lasting legacy

By Dan Cannon

George Floyd’s death echoed past tragedies. But George Floyd’s death is vastly different.

It made almost everyone sad. It awakened some sleepy people. It pushed some on-the-fence people over the edge. Some people went out and protested – even in Seaford.

These protests were peaceful and very necessary to air sentiments like “United we stand; divided we fall.” Hopefully, such thoughts and these efforts have galvanized and will galvanize citizens to, in a sense, memorialize Mr. Floyd’s death with a lasting epitaph: insisting on fundamental and immediate changes to promote local voter registration and voter turnout.

Over the past year, voter registration and voting took small steps toward optimal citizen involvement. In Seaford, voter registration did rise to about 1,350 – about 25% of 5,500 potential voters. On election day, 594 voted – about 11% of potential voters. Mayor David Genshaw won with support from less than 6% of potential voters.

But beginning June 9, a reconstituted mayor and city council can do something about these long-standing problems. They will have an ardent voter registration and voting reform advocate in James King. Jose Santos has indicated his concern about increasing voter registration. Dan Henderson has suggested there will be changes to significantly reform voting registration and voting.

The absolute key element to increase voter registration is to include all current federal and state registered voters (who meet municipal voting requirements) as eligible Seaford voters.

And absolutely key to increasing voting participation is to move municipal elections (except referenda) to November’s national and state elections date, which typically draws two to three times the voter turnout than municipal elections.

Finally, given the long-term risk of COVID-19 infection during in-person voting, Seaford must emulate a modified state-provided template for massive absentee voting, including absentee voting for any reason; provision of applications/affidavits to all registered voters with post-paid return; and provision of ballots to all registered voters completing the application with post-paid return.

Talk tends to be fleeting. For me, significant voter registration and voting reform would be a worthy and lasting remembrance of Mr. Floyd by enhancing citizen participation to make needed change(s) in Seaford.

Dan Cannon lives in Seaford. He is a retired Seaford High School biology teacher, including Advanced Placement.