“Our commitment to excluding people from the vote is the reason why we insist that you enroll — so we can figure out who’s eligible and who’s not,” Francisco Pedraza, a political scientist at the University of California Riverside, told me.
“There’s a long list. We can’t let slaves vote. So that’s including every black person. You can’t let Native Americans vote, you can’t let women vote,” Pedraza added. “So we have [these] historical roots, and not allowing people to vote and the voter registration process serves that purpose.”
Forcing people to sign up to vote meant those in power could create impediments — proof of citizenship, literacy tests — to marginalize and disenfranchise groups that were, on paper, eligible to vote.