Feingold and Klobuchar to Propose Federal Election-Day Registration Bill

Election day registration could prevent voter suppression and significantly boost turnout rates, particularly among young voters.
In the wake of the Supreme Court's decision in the Indiana Photo-ID case (as well as the recent Women's Voices, Women Vote ruckus), Senators Feingold and Klobuchar are proposing nation-wide election day registration for federal elections.

From the AP:
WASHINGTON -- Minnesota and Wisconsin lawmakers are seeking legislation that would require states to let people register to vote on the same day that a federal election is held.
Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, along with Senator Amy Klobuchar and Congressman Keith Ellison of Minnesota, plan to introduce the bill on Thursday. The lawmakers, all Democrats, say that same-day registration will encourage more people to vote.
The legislation comes three days after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states can require voters to produce photo identification. Civil rights groups worry that such voter ID laws will deter poor, older and minority voters from casting ballots. Proponents say voter ID laws are needed to prevent fraud.
There's one other constituency I would add to those listed by Feingold and Klobuchar: young voters. Young people arguably face some of the highest barriers to participation of any demographic. We move a lot (invalidating our registrations), we are inexperienced with the process, local municipalities discourage student voting, and now thanks to the Supreme Court, young voters in Indiana face a number of new bureaucratic hoops through which they must jump before casting their first ballot. Even worse, campaigns rarely target us, further decreasing chances that we will be registered and informed about upcoming elections (Obama is definitely the exception here). Given all that, it's no wonder voter turnout rates are lower among young people and higher among seniors who rarely move, are highly targeted, and have decades of experience with the process.

If we want to see young people - and all traditionally suppressed and disenfranchised constituencies - turnout in numbers on par with the rest of the electorate, EDR is a great first step. Currently, eight states have election day registration and turnout in those states is significantly higher than turnout in non-EDR states. Studies have shown that in EDR states, turnout can rise by as much as 14% (pdf). That would put youth voting almost on par with turnout among the rest of the electorate. At the rate that young voters have turned out thus far, it might even push youth turnout to parity with the general electorate.

Kudos to Senators Feingold and Klobuchar for raising the issue. This is something all progressives should promote and pursue in the coming months and years. Voting is our voice in our political system. Far from erecting more barriers to participation, as the Supreme Court did earlier this week, we should make it as easy as possible for people to participate. For more information, check out Demos and the Progressive States Network.
Michael Connery is the author of Youth to Power: How Today's Young Voters Are Building Tomorrow's Progressive Majority. He blogs about progressive youth organizing at Future Majority and is an adviser to a number of progressive youth organizations.
Stay Ahead of the Rest
Sign Up for AlterNet's Daily Newsletter
+ sign up for additional lists
Select additional lists by selecting the checkboxes below before clicking Subscribe:
Rights & Liberties
Personal Health