OPINION: Same-day registration boosts voter turnout
By the time the dust settles on the 2014 election and all the final absentee ballots drift in, New York state will most likely assume its regular place near the bottom of the nation’s voter-turnout lists.
One proven way to boost voter turnout is to increase the opportunities for people to vote. And the most proven way is by allowing same-day voter registration.
In states with same-day voter registration, turnout has increased an average of 10 percent, according to the United States Election Project, a University of Florida-based elections research organization.
Same-day registration boosts turnout in a number of ways.
Currently, New York requires that voters register at least 25 days before the election, shutting out many who don’t get interested in races until the end. That’s an unreasonable, unnecessary deadline.
Same-day registration would reduce some of the eligibility problems people have because of that deadline, as well as problems due to people changing addresses and forgetting to report the new information on time.
By allowing voters to register on Election Day, these voters’ ballots can be counted and their outdated registration information updated at the same time. Along with that, same-day registration reduces the need for provisional ballots. That means fewer ballots that need to be counted, reducing legal challenges, fraud, expense and inconvenience.
On Sunday, we endorsed against overly strict voter-identification laws that discriminate against poor and minority citizens. But that doesn’t mean we support lax identification requirements. Same-day registrants would still have to show the same identification currently required by the state, as well as sign an oath swearing to their identity. That oath requirement sounds a bit naive, until you remember how seriously the government takes voter fraud — which can be punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
In addition, evidence in states that have same-day registration shows that it doesn’t increase the cost of an election and it isn’t unduly cumbersome on election staff. And it has shown that it helps reduce fraud and clerical errors.
There are other approaches designed to boost turnout, such as allowing people to vote early. But early voting has had only marginal success in boosting turnout.
Same-day registration, however, is a proven and efficient way not only to get more voters to the polls, but also to clear up inefficiencies and reduce fraud.
When New York lawmakers return to Albany in January, same-day voter registration should be one of their priorities.
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— The Daily Gazette of Schenectady, courtesy of the Associated Press
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