Should same-day voter registration be available in all states?
In the past decades, more and more states permit same-day registration – a law that allows any qualified resident to vote and cast a ballot on the same day – which opens the debate on whether this legislation should be available in every state.
Rise of the Issue
Voting is an important part of any democracy. It enables its citizens to express their opinions on essential issues that face the country. In the United States (U.S.), registration requires U.S. citizens to register before a specific deadline, prior to Election Day. Yet, some states passed legislation allowing same-day registration (SDR), allowing qualified residents to register and vote at the same time, on Election Day or during early voting.
On one side of the debate, supporters say that same-day registration will increase voter turnout, reduce barriers to voting for marginalized groups, and protect democracy altogether. Opponents, however, argue that same-day registration threatens election security, encourages misinformed voting, and adds an administrative burden on election officials.
Same-Day Voter Registration is Enacted for the First Time
Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Maine become the first states to allow their residents to register and vote on the same day.
Additional States Allow Same-Day Registration
States such as Wyoming, New Hampshire, and Idaho enacted same-day voter registration laws.
SDR Legislations Become More Common
A greater number of states, including California, Vermont, and Utah to name a few, enact SDR legislations.
Attempts to Overturn Same-Day Voter Registration in Illinois
The U.S. Court of Appeals in Illinois reversed an injunction prohibiting SDR law requiring counties with more than 100,000 inhabitants on the basis that the injunction violated the Equal Protection Clause of Amendment XIV of the U.S. Constitution.
Montana Passes HB 176
After allowing same-day voter registration in 2005, Montana repealed the law and moved the registration deadline to the day before Election Day. As of September 2022, the implementation of the law repealing SDR is blocked by the Montana Supreme Court.
Access and Mobilization to Vote
Proponents say that same-day registration voter legislation makes voting more accessible and increases turnout while opponents argue that SDR limits access and mobilization to the polls by creating an additional administrative burden.
Supporters stress that SDR aligns with election security goals as information is updated and identity verified. Opponents state that SDR threatens election security because election officials do not have enough time to verify eligibility and are not able to prevent SDR voters from voting multiple times making voter fraud easier to achieve.
Proponents say that SDR laws are beneficial for the country and argue that every state should provide SDR to avoid disparities between states and to assure that voters are not subject to the priorities of local officials. Opponents disagree, arguing that each state should be able to choose whether they want to adopt them or not.
Same-day voter registration increases voter turnout.
Studies have shown that same-day voter registration can increase voter turnout, more specifically among the youth and minority groups. SDR also acts as a safety net for citizens who missed the deadline to register but still want to vote.
SDR enables corrections and updates of electoral rolls.
Same-day voter registration allows eligible voters to correct and update outdated voter registration records, preventing them from losing their vote because of bureaucratic errors.
The security of an election is protected.
SDR legislation ensures election security by requiring registrants to provide identification and by updating their information.
SDR laws make voting more accessible for marginalized groups.
By reducing the barriers to voting, SDR laws make voting more accessible, particularly for marginalized communities.
SDR reduces the need for provisional balloting.
Provisional balloting is offered to those who believe to be registered to vote, but whose name is not listed. While such ballots are often rejected, allowing eligible voters to register on the same day as voting could reduce the need for provisional balloting and assure that their vote will be counted.
Same-day voter registration legislation increases the risk of voter fraud.
Allowing same-day voter registration could increase the risk of fraud because election officials would not have enough time to verify voters’ eligibility and would not be able to prevent people from voting multiple times.
SDR laws create an additional administrative burden.
SDR adds administrative, legal, and technical tasks that slow down the process of voting on Election Day. SDR can therefore be more costly in time and money than traditional registration.
SDR legislation encourages ill-informed voting.
If one has not registered to vote beforehand, they are more likely to demonstrate a lack of investment and interest in the election process, which could lead them to make an uninformed decision.
Same-day registration compromises the integrity of the vote.
Same-day registration votes can compromise the integrity of all the votes and the elections by increasing the possibility of voter fraud.
SDR could be harmful to U.S. democracy.
Same-day registration votes can create unnecessary risks and threats, including double-voting, that can hinder U.S. democracy.