January 7, 2009

Election Day Voter Registration is a Win for Voters

CALIFORNIA VOTERS deserve to have Election Day Registration (EDR) - sometimes called Same Day Registration (SDR). At the present, the law in our state cuts off voter registration at 15 days prior to an election. The affect is that many people are denied the right to vote because they don't "tune in" to the fact that there is an election until a couple of days before Election Day.

Nine states have Same Day Registration - Maine, Minnesota and Wisconsin adopted the practice in the 1970s. Idaho, New Hampshire and Wyoming enacted Election Day Registration two decades later. And Montana implemented it in 2006 while Iowa and North Carolina both enacted Election Day Registration in 2007.

In those states the system has worked well and voters have benefited greatly. Reports show that Same Day Registration can be administered efficiently, at low cost, and without threatening the integrity of elections. In short, voters win!


Election Day Registration produces a win for voters


Over the past several decades, Same Day Registration has boosted turnout rates 10 to 12 percentage points higher than non-SDR states in both presidential and midterm elections.

Despite this evidence, the California legislature has been reluctant to adopt Same Day Voter Registration. To their credit, however, they have moved the voter registration deadline from 29 days prior to an election to 15 days.

That change was a step in the right direction but we should do more
if we are committed to the principle that more citizen engagement is a good thing as it strengthens our Democracy without in any way jeopardizing the integrity of the election process.

Here is a brief description of an idea which deserves a statewide conversation.

California's early voting period runs for the 29 days before an election. During that period an up through the 15th day, a voter can register and vote. After the 15th day an early voter must be registered to vote. But how about if we allow unregistered voters to register and vote up until the day before the election? In other words, during the period from the 15th day prior to the election to the day before the election, a potential voter could go to an early voting center, show identification, register and vote.

While this proposal isn't Election Day Registration, it is a step in the right direction. If the studies are accurate, this change would have the following significant impacts:
  1. Produce higher voter turnout
  2. Wouldn't cost taxpayers huge sums of money
  3. Produce a cost effective citizen engagement program
  4. Serve younger voters
  5. Encourages geographically mobile and lower-incomed citizens to vote
  6. Doesn't encourage voter fraud
  7. Produces faster election results by eliminating thousands of provisional ballots
  8. Allows those citizens who were mistakenly purged from the voter roll to vote
Everybody wins! The question is, will the politicians have the will to make this change so voters win?

1 comment:

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