Washington State is lagging behind other states in a major effort to encourage more voter participation in elections. That effort is Election Day Registration. It is sometimes called same day registration There is no legitimate reason to prevent people from registering up to and including the day of the election.
Nine states now allow voter registration on election day. These states are Maine, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Idaho, New Hampshire, Wyoming, Montana, North Carolina and Iowa. Montana’s law went into effect in 2006 and Iowa’s went into effect Jan 1, 2008. It was first used for the Iowa caucuses. North Carolina’s law was passed in 2007 and allows for same day registration and voting during it’s early voting period.
Last year the Washington State Senate passed SB 5561sponsored by Senator Eric Oemig with cosponsors Senators Fairley, Hobbs, Brown, Spanel, Franklin, Kline, Jacobsen, and McAuliffe.SB 5561 allowed voter registration up to and including election day. The bill made it to House Rules but never got a floor vote. Republicans offered some 41 amendments to try to stop the bill and obviously prevented it from being considered in the end.
By resolution SB 5561 has been reintroduced in the Senate and retained in present status. and eligible to be placed on third reading. In this election year with both Republicans and Democrats waging vigorous campaigns to elect a new President, Washington State should make every effort to enact this legislation and afford potential voters every opportunity to register and vote up to and including election day November 4, 2008!
You can contact your legislators and urge support for Election Day Registration and SB 5561 by going to the Washington State Legislative website and sending them an e-mail urging action this year.
The Seattle PI had an editorial yesterday supporting same day voting but referred to a different Senate bill introduced this year by fewer sponsors and which deferred the law going into effect until 2010. No hearing has been scheduled on this bill. There is no legitimate reason for delaying same day registration for an additional 2 years. The Legislature should instead enact SB 5661 which would go into effect this year in time for the Presidential election.
As researched and reported by Demos:
By counteracting arbitrary voter registration deadlines, EDR greatly enhances the opportunity for Americans to participate in the electoral process and cast a ballot that will be properly counted. States with EDR have consistently boasted turnout rates 10 to 12 percentage points higher than states that do not offer Election Day Registration.
In an op-ed piece in the May 11, 2007 edition of the New York Times, the Secretary of State of Idaho, Ben Ysursa and the Secretary of State of Maine, Mathew Dunlap, countered two arguments to election day registration based on their experience:
While opponents are concerned that this option might encourage voter fraud, such crime is exceedingly rare or nonexistent in states that offer Election Day registration. Citizens of Maine, for instance, have benefited from same-day registration since the early 1970s and no case of voter fraud has ever been attributed to the policy. With simple, fair and safe methods to verify voters, and by relying on effective poll-worker training and sophisticated election administration, our states have ensured the integrity of the process while allowing every eligible citizen to cast a ballot.
We also reject the oft-used argument that voters not registered in advance should be effectively barred from voting as punishment for not heeding existing deadlines. While it’s true even E.D.R. states have deadlines in place for registration by mail, we firmly believe that missing a deadline should not prevent interested and engaged parties from being able to register in person on Election Day. We are committed to leaving no voter behind, including first-time voters, newly naturalized citizens and those who may have recently changed addresses.
The irony here is that Washington State has a Democratic Governor and strong majorities in the House and the Senate. Iowa passed election day registration last year, after finally in 2006 overturning 43 years of Republican control of their legislature.
We have had strong Democratic control of our Legislature for a number of years as well as several decades of Democratic control of the Governor’s office. Democrats in our Legislature need to step up and support election day registration now. What are they waiting for?
An excellent site to read about election day registration and the experiences of other states is to go to Demos – a network for ideas and actions. Their democracy program has a webpage on election day registration with links to resources and studies.