The final returns on voter turnout are as dismal as predicted: only half of America's eligible voters actually voted in the 1988 election, the lowest proportion since 1924. The figures offer no magic solution. But they argue strongly that more people would vote if voting could be made easier.

Who were the non-voters? According to a New York Times-CBS News post-election survey, they tended to be younger, poorer and less educated than voters. Would their votes have changed the outcome? No. If non-voters had voted, Vice President Bush might have won by 11 percentage points instead of 8 - largely because of pro-Bush sentiment among younger non-voters.

Why didn't they vote? Seventeen percent didn't care or were too busy; 13 percent disliked the candidates. These numbers suggest apathy and dismay. But the largest group, 37 percent, said they didn't vote because they weren't registered. And the great majority of those said they would have voted if they could simply have showed up at the polls on Election Day.

In this computer age, why not allow voters to establish their identities on Election Day with Social Security cards or driver's licenses? That won't remedy widespread voter apathy, and there may be argument about how much good it would do. But there's no argument that eliminating archaic barriers would be a sensible first step.