Assuming that there will be no changes to the filibuster rules and that the Republicans will filibuster everything the Democrats propose, the only way anything will be passed by the Senate is through reconciliation. Reconciliation can only be used to pass laws that are related to tax, spending, or the deficit. So the question is, what voting reforms can be passed that are related to the budget?
I believe that the following reforms are sufficiently related to the budget to be allowed to pass through reconciliation:
- Create a national voter registration database, managed by the Social Security administration. Everyone who has a social security number will be in the database, along with a single address of where that person is registered to vote. States are required to let anyone in the federal voter database vote based on the address in the database. Homeless people are assigned the address of their closest post office. Funds for the new database are clearly budget-related and regulations specifying how the database is to be used should be allowed as part of the specification of what the funding is for.
- Create a national voter ID card that is available for free to anyone who asks for one. These can be distributed by the postal service, with same day photo and printing available. Requesting a new voter ID would also allow someone to update their federal voter registration information in the national voter database, allowing the social security administration and postal service to set the rules on when a voter can register to vote for an election. Additional funding to print and distribute the IDs, as well as extra work hours for several months before every election make this a budgetary item.
- Provide additional funding for absentee ballot request forms, absentee ballots being mailed to voters, and absentee ballots being returned by voters. These can all be sent in special envelopes that are paid for by the US government. As a separate class of mail, they can be tracked every time that they are moved so that ballots will almost never be lost, and they can have higher priority so that ballots are not delayed. This should include additional funding so that all ballots dropped off in a post office by a reasonable cutoff time on election day are delivered by the legal cutoff time to the appropriate vote counting facilities.
- Provide additional funding for post offices to remain open longer hours for a month before every election so that people can walk in and drop off their absentee ballot. Funding could also be provided to have extra security around the absentee ballot drop boxes inside the post offices.
Some things probably can’t be done by reconciliation. Examples include anti-gerrymandering regulations, no-excuse absentee voting, and providing more hours of early voting.