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  • The Voter Formation Project

Let's Talk About Same Day Voter Registration

Hey, y’all!

Happy Friday. We’re really excited to be talking to you today about something that’s near and dear to our hearts: same-day voter registration.

(Getty/Brianna Soukup/Portland Press Herald)

You might have noticed that a *bunch* of states had voter registration deadlines last week (looking at you, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York North Carolina, AND Oregon). That’s right, this week. Like, mid-October. For elections that aren’t until November.

If you’re like us, while you were encouraging your cousin’s fiancee’s 2nd grade teacher who recently moved to Idaho to update her registration status (no? just us?) you were also wondering: what gives? Why don’t we have the technology to just register when we show up to vote on Election Day?

The thing is, we do. In 20 states and the District of Columbia, voters can participate in what’s called same-day voter registration. It’s exactly what it sounds like: when you show up to vote, you can register the same day you cast your ballot. No waiting periods, no three-week delays.

What’s more, same-day registration has been proven time and time again to significantly increase voter turnout (particularly among Black, Latinx, and young voters) in states where it’s implemented. Which makes sense - giving people more opportunities to become voters would mean that more people become voters.

So why doesn’t every state implement same-day voter registration?

The answer is one we’ve heard before: voter suppression. When fewer people vote, it’s more likely that the status quo is maintained -- the people in power get to stay in power. And, unfortunately, many of those in power are continuing a long and storied tradition of using voter registration as a roadblock to exclude already marginalized voters (Black Americans and immigrant and minority communities) from the electoral process.

Take Montana, which had same-day voter registration for decades, but eliminated it back in 2021 in the name of “election security”. Almost immediately, the state was sued by the Montana Federation of Public Employees, the Montana AFL-CIO, the Montana Association of Centers for Independent Living, and a number of private citizens. The plaintiffs argued that ending same-day voter registration placed an undue burden on those with disabilities, the elderly, and working Montanans, all of whom face significant barriers to registering to vote outside of Election Day.

Same-day voter registration doesn’t solve all of our problems. There are still a lot of roadblocks in place, some deliberate and some not, that keep the most marginalized members of our society away from the polls. But same-day registration is a system that we know *for a fact* increases voter turnout, with the greatest impact on groups that generally vote the least. And for us, that sounds like a really great place to start.

Thanks for reading, y’all.

Talk soon!

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