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Election Day Registration

Overview

The vast majority of states have registration deadlines weeks before election day. This schedule poses problems for busy Americans who simply forget to register or re-register after moving and find themselves unable to vote on election day.  During the 2000 presidential election alone, nearly 3 million voters were disenfranchised due to registration problems.  Luckily, a simple solution is available — election day registration (EDR).

Any registration problem that may arise can easily be solved by allowing the voter to register or re-register right at the polling place.  EDR also reduces the need for provisional ballots, which are used when a voter's registration is in question.  More importantly, while provisional ballots often go uncounted, election day registration provides certainty to citizens that their votes will count. Election day registration also functions to increase turnout among certain segments of the population more likely to encounter registration problems: people who move frequently, young people, and historically disenfranchised voters.

The statistics for voter turnout in states with election day registration are striking and point to the system’s potential to renew democracy in America:

  • 74% of eligible voters participated in states with election day registration in 2004, compared to only 60% in non-EDR states.  Turnout was higher for both safe and battleground states.
  • The top four states for voter turnout in 2004 had EDR.