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Press release/statement

STATEMENT: Two New Publications Support Election Day Registration Proposals

Implementation Guide, Report on 2008 Election BOOST Reform Momentum Now In States

New York, NY — The 2008 election had the highest voter participation on record — more than 64 percent of the overall electorate, or 130 million people — and nowhere were those numbers higher than in states that allowed people to register and vote on the same day. The procedures in those states that support this high turnout, known as Election Day Registration (EDR) and/or Same Day registration (SDR), are increasingly recognized as critical reforms that work to bring millions of Americans into the democratic process, and do so in a way that is safe and cost effective for states.

To support momentum building in states across the country for EDR legislation, the national public policy and advocacy center Demos is announcing the publication of a new data report and a policy implementation guide for use by EDR advocates and election administrators:

Election Day Registration: Best Practices is a new tool that helps states considering EDR better understand the details and objectives of the law, and it assists election officials with proper implementation. The guide outlines the various approaches to putting EDR into practice, as reported by election officials in EDR states, and includes a variety of supporting documents as examples of those approaches.

The Best Practices guide addresses:

  • The recruiting and training of poll workers, with special emphasis on student poll workers and the civic participation that engenders.
  • Avoiding congestion and confusion at the polls through proper administration and voter education and outreach.
  • Assisting special populations, such as students and military personnel.
  • Preserving the integrity of the election process through means such as integrating EDR with a real-time electronic voter database, posting eligibility information clearly at the polls, and conducting regular spot checks and post-election audits.

"Having previously served as a state's chief election administrator, it's long been clear to me that allowing people to register and vote on the same day is a win-win reform for citizens and for states," said Miles Rapoport, President of Demos and former Secretary of the State of Connecticut, who recently submitted testimony to a Senate Rules Committee hearing on the 2008 election. "Far too many Americans are simply cut out of the voting process and don't have their say-whether because of voter list problems, arbitrary deadlines, casting a provisional ballot that is never counted-and EDR is one of the best ways to mitigate them and give people back their voice in our democracy."

Voters Win With Election Day Registration is an annual report by Demos that examines the performance of EDR in recent elections. The newest edition is focused on the performance of the nine states that allowed people to register and vote on the same day in the 2008 election. The report shows that these states — Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Minn., Mont., N.H., N.C., Wis., Wyo  — have consistently higher voter participation than other states, 7 percent on average in 2008. Prior to that election, where voter participation surged across the country, States with EDR have historically boasted turnout rates 10 to 12 percentage points higher than non-EDR states.

Highlights from the 2008 election include:

  • In North Carolina, 253,000 individuals took advantage of a new law that allowed people to register and vote during the early voting period, in the run-up to the November 4, 2008 election. 105,000 were first-time voters in their counties; the balance updated their voter registration records and avoided the need to vote by provisional ballot.
  • Nearly 46,000 Iowans used EDR to vote on November 4, 2008-the first year the procedure was in place.
  • Wisconsin, a longtime EDR state, reported 436,347 registrations on Election Day in 2008, representing over 14 percent of the total turnout for the state.
  • More than 1.1 million individuals used EDR to register and vote in the 2008 general election.
  • The top five voter turnout states were all EDR states (Minn., Wis., Maine, NH and Iowa).

Voters Win also highlights EDR's key benefits, notably that it:

  • Allows eligible voters who may have been mistakenly purged from the voting rolls to cast a meaningful ballot.
  • Counteracts arbitrary voter registration deadlines, which close before the media and the public fully focus on elections.
  • Helps enfranchise young, geographically mobile and lower-income citizens
  • Is cost-effective and easier for elections officials to administer than provisional ballots.
  • Does not encourage voter fraud.

"Bolstered by the success of Iowa and North Carolina, and with the strong record of success in states like Wisconsin and Minnesota, many states are considering same day registration proposals," said Regina Eaton , Deputy Director of Demos' Democracy Program and head of the nationwide EDR implementation campaign. "This is a critical reform that is gaining real momentum across the states, and is now considered an essential component of federal legislation to modernize elections. These new publications are tools to support those efforts."