Election Day voter registration — known as same-day registration — permits eligible citizens to register and vote on Election Day. Most U.S. states require voters to register before an election, with various deadlines.
Ten states have some form of Election Day voter registration. Voter turnout is much higher in states using Election Day registration than in states that do not.
In the 2004 presidential election, voter turnout in same day voter registration states was 12 percent higher than states without same-day rules. In the 2006 mid-term elections, states with same-day voter registration had turnout rates 10-12 percent higher than in other states.
In 1972, prior to adoption of same day voter registration, Maine ranked 21st in the country in voter turnout. In 2008, Maine had the third highest voter turnout in the country. The only states to surpass Maine in voter turnout in 2008 — Minnesota and Wisconsin — also have Election Day voter registration.
In 2010, 18,364 Maine voters registered to vote on Election Day. In 2008, 49,666 voters used same-day registration to vote.
Secretary of State Charlie Summers and Republican legislative leaders supported a bill that eliminates Maine’s 38-year-old same-day voter registration and bans absentee voting two business days before Election Day. The Legislature passed the measure last week.
Election Day registration was part of Maine’s vibrant democratic tradition. Republican efforts to set back the clock means more barriers to Maine voters, especially for those in our communities who move frequently, including busy single parents, the young , and anyone who lives in the economic margins.
Same-day registration also places less of a premium on proving permanent residence. Many poor Mainers who have no stable residence, along with those people who just move a lot, find same-day registration very convenient. Losing that option might be the difference whether they vote.
As a social studies teacher, I see firsthand the importance of establishing the habit of voter participation with high school students. Thousands of these young Maine voters utilize same-day voter registration. Why put up roadblocks?
During this legislative session, I proposed a bill to make it a high school graduation requirement to register to vote. That is the kind of initiative a secretary of state should be supporting, not initiatives that discourage voter participation.
Proponents of LD 1376 — An Act to Preserve the Integrity of the Voter Registration and Election Process (to end same-day registration) — have suggested that the measure would eliminate voter fraud, yet only two known cases of an individual voting twice have been identified in the past 30 years in Maine. Maine has accurate, secure and accessible elections. There was no need to change a system that is not broken.
LD 1376, along with other bills requiring voters to present state-issued photo identification at the polls, resembles legislation currently before or recently passed by other Republican-controlled legislatures in the United States this year.
A wave of voter suppression legislation is emerging from newly elected GOP governors and Republican legislators that would make it much more difficult for traditional Democratic constituencies to vote. Many of the states seeking to enforce these new voter ID bills have newly elected Republican governors and legislators, including Florida, Ohio, Maine and Wisconsin.
An editorial in The New York Times on June 6 linked the wave of voter suppression to the American Legislative Exchange Council, a national coalition of tea party legislators.
Maine has one of the highest voter turnout rates in the country. Apparently, Maine Republicans think this is bad for democracy.
Rep. Brian Bolduc, D-Auburn, lives in Auburn. He serves on the State and Local Government Committee.