Voting is a fundamental part of American democracy. But many Americans can’t vote on Election Day for one simple reason – they aren’t registered.
Similarly, others are turned away on Election Day because they didn’t update their voter registration to their new address following a move. It’s easy to see how something as “small” as updating your voting address could get lost in the shuffle of the million other things that need to be done in a move. With nearly 36 million Americans moving every year, that adds up to a lot of voters who may find their registrations in limbo on Election Day.
In order to address this issue – and ensure otherwise valid voters have a chance to exercise their constitutional right – many states have implemented same-day voter registration.
Here are a few reasons why Missouri should do the same.
What is Same-Day Voter Registration?
Same-day voter registration allows voters to register to vote and to cast a ballot simultaneously, removing the hurdles of registration cutoffs (often weeks in advance of elections) and extra trips to the DMV to do so.
This process also allows registered voters to update their voting information on Election Day if they’ve moved since the last election but haven’t had a chance to update their address with the Board of Elections.
Missouri currently requires voters to register a month in advance, well before many are even paying attention to candidates, let alone considering their ballot. Same-day registration would remove a barrier that prevents many Missourians from exercising their constitutional right to vote.
Have Other States Tried Same-Day Voter Registration?
Seventeen states have already implemented same-day registration. Voter participation in these states averages 10 percent higher than in states without same-day registration. Four of the five states with the highest voter turnout offer same-day registration.
Who Benefits from Same-Day Voter Registration?
Same-day registration overwhelmingly benefits lower-income people, young people, and people of color – demographics that historically lag in voter participation. Same-day registration would remove obstacles for many individuals in these categories by making the prerequisites to vote simpler. Many people do not have the luxury of taking off work, finding childcare, or arranging transportation for registering. Perhaps they have a month-to-month lease or are leaving for school and won’t know their next address by the deadline to register. Same-day registration encourages participation by removing these stigmas.
Young, poor, and communities of color are traditionally less likely to exercise their right to vote but make up a sizeable part of the eligible voting population. These same communities have historically been disenfranchised from exercising their right to vote. This is not coincidental. We should always ask ourselves if regulations should always be examined and challenged when they end up making our system of voting less fair and representative.
The real threat to democracy is that eligible voters don’t vote. In 2018, there is no reason that eligible voters should be prevented from voting. Our government has the technology to allow for same-day registration, as shown by its use in 17 other states. If Missouri were to join these states in passing same-day registration, it would break a barrier that stops many voters from exercising their constitutional right.