Fill in the blanks below for an op-ed on same day registration.
[OPTIONAL: Start with a brief story about voter registration from your state.]
In 1942, 21-year-old Rosanell Eaton became one of the few black women to make it onto the voting rolls in the state of North Carolina after overcoming tests designed to exclude her from the political process. She became a lifelong voting rights activist, registering thousands of fellow citizens to vote and voting in 70 years’ worth of elections. In 2013, however, North Carolina passed an omnibus bill that prevented Eaton from voting because the name on the voter registration card she received in 1942 - (Rosanell Eaton) did not match the name on her driver’s license (Rosa Johnson Eaton).
In 2015, Eaton, now 94, made 11 trips to different agencies over the course of a month to comply with the new voter-ID law. The woman whom Jim Crow-era North Carolina had allowed to vote traveled a total of 200 miles to reclaim the right she spent 70 years working to expand, and she was not alone. More than 300,000 North Carolinians lacked sufficient ID to comply with the 2013 law. In 2016, a federal appeals court ruled that the law violated the Voting Rights Act and the Constitution, and that the North Carolina legislature passed it with discriminatory intent, resulting in an injunction that struck down the ID requirement that had barred Eaton from the ballot box. The court’s decision also reinstated the safety net that would have protected Eaton’s voice before she had to travel 200 miles to restore it: same day registration.
Same day registration allows citizens to register and vote at the same time on Election Day or, in North Carolina’s case, during the early voting period. Same day registration does not just simplify the registration process for new voters. With same day registration, people like Eaton experiencing difficulties with their registration can work with state officials to protect both the integrity of our elections and the fundamental right to vote for all eligible citizens. Same day registration is the most consistently successful reform for protecting the voices of young people, communities of color, senior citizens, and working families because it makes voting convenient for all Americans.
It’s no coincidence that Minnesota and Wisconsin - both of which have used same day registration since the 1970s - have had the top two voter turnout rates in the country in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections. Voter participation rates in states with same day registration has been about 10 percentage points above states without it for over 30 years. Research suggests that if every state in the country used same day registration, the overall voter turnout rate would increase by at least 5%. With 41% more young voters participating in the 2008 election in states with same day registration than states without it, the reform’s success over the next 30 years could be even more dramatic.
The facts are clear: same day registration is the best option for states looking to engage as many eligible voters as possible. North Carolina passed same day registration in 2007 to boost voter turnout, and in 2008, the state’s voter turnout increased by 8% - the largest improvement in the nation. Hawaii passed same day registration in 2014 to address the state’s low voter participation because it has such as strong track record of immediate, measurable results in expanding access to the vote. As Hawaii State Representative Kaniela Ing 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."
Same day registration has also withstood attack after attack from individual interests trying to dismantle due to widespread public support. Today, 16 states use or will use same day registration, and the people of states like Minnesota, Wisconsin, and North Carolina have mobilized in defense of the program.
In Wisconsin, 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 had helped lift up their voices for decades. In the end, Governor Walker was forced to back down, especially as his own son used it to register while accompanied by the governor.
Historically, voter registration has acted as a barrier to the fundamental right to vote; in [State Name], same day registration could transform voter registration into an opportunity for all our citizens to participate in the political process. Small groups are working to enact barriers to voting that silence our voices and disproportionately affect minorities, young people, and other vulnerable populations. Some states are cutting back on measures like same day registration and moving our country backward with laws designed to make voting harder, not easier. Some individuals would rather keep eligible Americans from voting. In [State Name], we must stand together to make sure that the voices of the many outweigh the interests of a few.
We already know we can succeed. In November 2016, Rosanell Eaton will vote in her 19th presidential election alongside hundreds of thousands of voters who will register and vote for the first time on Election Day. Same day registration is a crucial first step in building a government in which our voices are heard, in our state and across the nation, and the people of [State Name] are determined to take it.