Voting is the cornerstone of our democracy, yet every year, hundreds of thousands of otherwise eligible voters miss out on their opportunity to have their voice heard. Why? Simply because they missed the voter registration deadline – an arbitrary and archaic feature of an outdated electoral system.
Now that online registration and e-pollbooks are standard technologies, there is no reason for a registration deadline to prevent someone from voting. Same-day registration is one of the easiest ways to make voting more accessible to all Virginians and take down one of the many barriers that contribute to Virginia being the second-hardest state in the nation to cast your ballot.
Same-day registration is nothing new. It has been implemented in 19 other states and has increased voter turnout in every state.
It is time to join the 19 other states that have passed same-day registration and eliminate this unnecessary barrier to the ballot box.
Same-day voter registration allows voters with valid ID and proof of residency to register or update their registration when they vote on election day or during an early voting period. In most states, the voter registration deadline is removed entirely, and the system works best when registration is made available early and up to election day at the polls. Virginia should follow suit.
Right now, you still must be registered to vote at your current address 21 days before a general or primary election in order to cast your ballot. That means that if you move to Virginia in mid-October or you do not register for some other reason by October 12th, you won’t be able to vote in the upcoming election. While we don’t know exactly how many voters that leaves out, we do know that among the 19 states that have implemented same-day voter registration, turnout increased by an average of 7-10% after the new policy. By those numbers, we effectively blocked 230,000 voters last year, and those numbers will continue without meaningful reforms.
Though some may say that this is a partisan tactic designed to help one political party over the other, there is no evidence to suggest it increases turnout in any predictable partisan way. There are, however, certain groups that are impacted more than others by this inclusive policy change.
The average American moves nearly 12 times in their lifetime, making the majority of those moves before the age of 30. Frequent movers are less likely to be white and tend to be younger and make less money – demographics that typically fall behind in voter participation. Instituting voter registration cutoffs disproportionately disenfranchises these otherwise eligible voters just because they moved recently or forgot to update their registration. That is unacceptable.
Same-day registration also allows voters to fix errors or mistakes on their registration without having to cast a provisional ballot which may or may not be counted. This not only ensures that the voter rolls are more accurate, it saves time and resources for cities and counties by all but eliminating the need for provisional ballots.
It is time to join the 19 other states that have passed same-day registration and eliminate this unnecessary barrier to the ballot box. We need to make it easier for people to vote, and that starts with getting rid of voter registration deadlines that disproportionately silence marginalized communities from the political process.