Testimony in Support of Same Day Registration in Maryland

Testimony in Support of Same Day Registration in Maryland

February 15, 2012
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By passing this proposed constitutional amendment, and laying the groundwork to enact SDR, Maryland would become the 10th state to permit eligible citizens to both register and vote on the same day. [i] The District of Columbia also enacted Same Day Registration in 2010.  SDR is available there on Election Day and/or the early voting period. One state has no statewide registration requirement at all.[ii]  All these states have shown increased voter turnout, with minimal costs and no compromise to the electoral system.

Same Day Registration unquestionably boosts overall voter turnout.  Further, evidence suggests that it especially does so for traditionally low-turnout groups.  If Maryland were to adopt an SDR system similar to that which exists elsewhere,

  • Overall turnout could go up by 4.3 percent,[iii]  
  • Turnout among those aged 18 to 25 could increase by 9.1 percent, and
  • Turnout for those who have moved in the last six months could increase by 7.2 percent.[iv]

The purpose of voter registration in the United States is to make sure that only eligible citizens vote. Voter registration also provides election officials with convenient lists they can use to notify voters about upcoming elections, as well as other information about elections and voting. Lastly, when individuals enter a polling place, a voter registration list gives poll workers the information they need to authenticate voters before they cast ballots. At the same time, the process of voter registration imposes costs on voters—such as forcing voters to register well in advance of an election, which might involve a complicated process of determining where and how to register—and these costs have been shown in various studies to serve as barriers to many potential voters.[v] Many voting rights experts agree that pre-Election Day registration deadlines have contributed to lower turnout among eligible voters in the United States.

Benefits of Same Day Registration

America is a highly mobile society. According to the US Census Bureau, over 35 million individuals changed residences in 2011.[vi] Many of these individuals fail to register to vote before the registration deadline, and find themselves unable to cast a ballot. Others who have timely submitted their voter registration applications will find on Election Day that their names had not been added to the voter rolls and that their votes will not be counted. Same Day Registration remedies both these problems. Voters simply register to vote on Election Day or during the early voting period, and cast a ballot that will be counted.

States with Same Day Registration show that the system works. SDR states as a group have historically boasted an average voter turnout rate of 10 to 12 percentage points higher than non-SDR states.[vii]  Academic studies show that a significant part of this difference is directly attributable to SDR. Experts predict that adoption of SDR can increase turnout by a full three to six percentage points.[viii]  And increased voter participation can be achieved without administrative burden or increased incidence of voter fraud.[ix]

 

[i] SDR states are Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

[ii] North Dakota has no statewide voter registration requirement.

[iii] R. Michael Alvarez and Jonathan Nagler, Same Day Voter Registration in Maryland, Demos: A Network of Ideas and Action, (Winter 2010), available athttp://www.demos.org/sites/default/files/publications/SameDayRegistration_Maryland_Demos.pdf.

[iv] Id.

[v] How voter registration imposes costs on potential voters was originally researched by Raymond E. Wolfinger and Steven J. Rosenstone, Who Votes?, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1980.

[vi] U.S. Census Bureau, Geographical Mobility 2010-2011, Tables 1, available at http://www.census.gov/hhes/migration/data/cps/cps2011.html.

[vii] Demos: A Network of Ideas and Action, Voters Win With Election Day Registration (Updated January 2010), available at http://www.demos.org/pubs/voterswin_feb032010.pdf.

[viii] See Stephen Knack, “Election Day Registration: The Second Wave,” American Politics Quarterly 29(1), 65-78 (2001); Knack and White 2000; Craig L. Brians & Bernard Grofman, “Election Day Registration’s Effect on U.S. Voter Turnout,” Soc. Sci. Q. 82(1); 171-83 (March 2001); Mark J. Fenster, “The Impact of Allowing Day of Registration Voting on Turnout in U.S. Elections from 1960 to 1992,” American Politics Quarterly 22(1)(1994): 74-87.

[ix] See, for example, R. Michael Alvarez and Stephen Ansolabehere, “California Votes: The Promise of Election Day Registration”, Dēmos:A Network for Ideas and Action, 2002; R. Michael Alvarez, Jonathan Nagler and Catherine Wilson, “Making Voting Easier: Election Day Registration in New York”, Dēmos: A Network for Ideas and Action, 2004; M.J. Fenster, “The Impact of Allowing Day of Registration Voting on Turnout in U.S. Elections from 1960 to 1992,” American Politics Quarterly 22(1) (1994): 74-87; B. Highton, “Easy Registration and Voter Turnout,” The Journal of Politics 59(2), 565-575 (1997); Lorraine C. Minnite, An Analysis of Voter Fraud in The United States, Dēmos: A Network for Ideas and Action, 2004, http://archive.Demos.org/pubs/Analysis.pdf; Dēmos: A Network for Ideas and Action, Election Day Registration: A Ground Level View (2007), available at http://www.Demos.org/sites/default/files/publications/EDR_Clerks.pdf; S. Knack, “Election-Day

Registration: The Second Wave,” American Politics Quarterly 29(1) (2001), 65-78.

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