Republicans have long expressed skepticism about the extraordinary efforts to register as many people to vote as possible. The 1993 Motor-Voter law mandated offering voter registration at DMV offices, and applications for welfare and other government benefits are often accompanied by solicitations to register to vote as well. More recently, voter registration popped up in the draft version of an Obamacare application. While the (mainly) Democrats who propose such ideas contend they are simply trying to make sure the franchise is not denied to any citizen, the GOP has often accused the Democrats of mostly trying to pad their own voter rolls.
Recent gun control legislation, however, could provide an opportunity to test the sincerity of the Democrats' professed altruistic motives. The recent push in Congress for universal background checks has been primarily a Democratic party idea. The GOP should propose an amendment requiring that all background checks also include an opportunity to register to vote. Since 1998, even with all the current exceptions, over 167 million background checks have been run. The Democrats should be thrilled at this opportunity to broaden participation in our democratic process. As Jay Carney said in March defending the inclusion of voter registration in the Obamacare application, “I'm not sure that it's such a terrible thing that people might want to register to vote.”
From the Republican perspective, according to a 2008 election exit poll, gun ownership among Democratic voters was less than half of that of Republican voters, so the GOP has nothing to lose by offering this amendment. If the Democrats reject the amendment, they expose their hypocrisy on voter registration. If the amendment passes and Democrats ultimately win passage of the legislation, at least the GOP could find consolation in the two-to-one advantage in new voter registration solicitations. Sometimes, clouds need a little help with a silver lining.