Same Day Registration in States

By 2018, 16 states and the District of Columbia will allow same day registration. Thirteen states already use it, and three states - California, Vermont, and Hawaii - are working to implement same day registration over the next two years. California and Vermont passed both same day registration and automatic voter registration as complementary pieces of a strategy to modernize their voting systems and expand access to the vote.

Nine of the 16 states passed same day registration during the past ten years, but some states, like Wisconsin, Maine, and Minnesota have used same day registration since the 1970s. The facts are clear - data from the past 32 years has shown that same day registration consistently increases voter participation by at least ten percentage points. States looking to modernize and make it easier for people to vote have found that same day registration is the cheapest, easiest path to measurable gains.

In the past few years, however, some state governments have been trying to dismantle same day registration, despite the overwhelming evidence of its success. In 2012, in Wisconsin, a new administration tried to repeal same day registration after the law had been in place for 37 years. The people of Wisconsin demanded that their government respect the long tradition of equal access to the ballot box in their state, and together, they made sure that the voices of the many outweighed the interests of a few.

Click here to learn more about the fight for same day registration, and check out our guides to taking action and getting the word out to find out how you can join the fight!

 

 

Fighting for Same Day Registration

It's no coincidence that two of the states with the strongest voter turnout - Wisconsin and Minnesota - have used same day registration since the 1970s. States working to modernize elections and boost voter participation enact same day registration because it has an immediate, measurable effect in expanding access to the vote. Although same day registration has helped hundreds of thousands of Americans register and vote more easily, small groups within state governments are trying to block or dismantle same day registration.

Check out a few key profiles on same day registration in states across the country below, and find out where your state stands on same day here!

Wisconsin's Story

Wisconsin

Wisconsin’s same day registration law has given the state one of the highest voter participation rates in the nation since it was passed in 1976. In 2012, however, Gov. Scott Walker tried to repeal same day registration, citing concerns that too many people would turn out to vote on Election Day for poll workers to handle, even though the program had worked well for 37 years. Poll workers spoke out against these concerns, and a report issued by the Government Accountability Board found that eliminating same-day registration would be expensive, with no impact on reducing the workload of election staff.

The citizens of Wisconsin came together to demand the convenience and access to the ballot box that has helped lift up their voices. In the end, Governor Walker was forced to back down from ending same-day registration, especially as his own son used it to register while accompanied by the governor. The fight for voting rights continues in Wisconsin, and together, Wisconsinites are ensuring that their voices and the voices of their children will be heard for years to come.

Minnesota's Story

Minnesota

Like Wisconsin, Minnesota has a longstanding tradition of strong civic engagement. Alongside Wisconsin and Maine, Minnesota was one of the first states to pass same day registration in 1974. Today, Minnesota has led the nation in voter turnout for both the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections. Minnesota elections already use early votingonline voter registrationno excuse absentee ballots, and portable registration, and activists and advocates in the state are working toward reforms like automatic voter registration and pre-registration.

In 2012, the people of Minnesota rejected a restrictive voter-ID ballot measure - the first time a voter-ID law had been defeated at the ballot box - because so many Minnesotans mobilized to protect the equal access that had shaped their state for decades. As Secretary of State Steve Simon said, "The debate has been more or less settled [in Minnesota]. I'd hope that some people have learned their lesson about rash attacks on the right to vote."

Hawaii's Story

Hawaii

During the elections following Hawaii's statehood in 1959, Hawaii's voter turnout was a consistent 90% of the voting-age population. Today, however, Hawaii has the lowest voter participation rates in the country. Hawaii's Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed same day registration into law in July 2014 to help new voters come to the polls by 2018. State Representative Kaniela Ing, who helped introduce the same day registration bill, said, "No matter what the reason is, people aren't coming to the polls and government should make it as easy as possible for new voters to be able to do so."

In Hawaii, local elections have been decided by fewer than 20 votes, and new voters like Elle Cochran can tip the balance even further. Cochran voted for the first time when she ran for office in 2006 to protect her beloved Honolua Bay from a real estate development, and during the campaign, she inspired her friend's 18-year-old daughter to register, vote, and pass out registration forms to 30 or 40 friends. In Hawaii's tightly knit communities, same day registration will help people like Cochran take action and vote on the issues that matter to their friends, families, and neighbors.

North Carolina's Story

North Carolina

In 2013, the North Carolina General Assembly repealed same day registration in a measure creating several barriers to the ballot and dismantling much of the state’s work to modernize voting. The greatest impact of this decision fell most directly on communities of color - 41% of the North Carolinians who used same day registration to register and vote in 2012 were African-American. According to Demos, a total of around 250,000 residents used same day registration in the 2012 presidential election alone, and North Carolina’s voter participation rate rose 8 percent after the program was enacted - the largest increase in the nation in 2008.

Despite the repeal, the people of North Carolina continued to challenge attacks on their voting rights and champion the success of same day registration in the state. As NC NAACP President Rev. William Barber II said, “You can’t take government of the people, by the people, from the people,” and he was right. On July 29, 2016, in a stunning victory for voting rights and civil rights, a federal appeals court found that the 2013 law violated the Voting Rights Act and that the law was passed with discriminatory intent. Because the law that instituted the discriminatory voter-ID standards was the same one that repealed same day registration, the court's decision temporarily restores the right for North Carolinians to vote early and register on Election Day in November 2016.

The fight isn't over yet, though - activists and advocates in North Carolina are working to get the word out and educate the people of North Carolina on what same day registration means for them.

 

Get the Facts

Here are the facts: Same Day Registration is proven to be the most consistently effective reform for expanding access to the fundamental right to vote.

  • From the landmark laws in Maine in 1973 to Vermont's Act 44 in 2015, 16 states and the District of Columbia have passed Same Day Registration throughout half a century of clear success. 
  • The turnout rate in states with Same Day Registration has remained at least 10 percentage points above states without it for the past 32 years.
  • If every state had Same Day Registration, research suggests that overall voter participation would increase by at least 5%.
  • Same Day Registration has the strongest effect on people who move often such as young people and communities of color. For example, young people were 41% more likely to vote in the 2008 election in states with Same Day Registration than states without it.

 

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