Connecticut has another opportunity to show the way forward on progressive reform. While many other states are suppressing the vote through strict new voter ID requirements, restrictions on community voter registration drives and shortened early voting periods, Governor Dannel Malloy and Secretary of the State Denise Merrill are championing legislation to expand voter participation. A Same Day Registration and online voter registration bill crafted and introduced by Governor Malloy and Secretary Merrill passed the state House of Representatives late Monday evening. Unless the clock runs out on the 2012 session before it can act, Senate approval looks likely.
I couldn’t be more proud of the Nutmeg State.
I must admit to a special note of pride in the Same Day Registration proposal. I introduced an SDR bill in the Connecticut General Assembly 25 years ago, when I served in the House and on the Government Administration and Elections Committee. I was convinced then, and still am today, that Same Day Registration is an extremely effective way to increase voter participation.
Maine, New Hampshire and seven other states allow citizens to register and vote, or update their existing registrations, on Election Day or during early voting periods. Year after year, these Same Day Registration states lead the nation in voter turnout. As a group, they have boasted average voting rates that are 10 to 12 percentage points higher than non-SDR states. Voter turnout was seven points higher in SDR states than non-SDR states in the 2008 presidential election. When offered the opportunity, voters use Same Day Registration. They will also fight to keep it. Last November, Maine citizens overwhelmingly voted to restore SDR in a so-called “People’s Veto” of a Same Day Registration repeal bill that the Maine legislature had passed earlier in the year.
Same Day Registration just makes sense in our highly mobile society, where over 35 million people changed residences in 2011. Many of these individuals learned on Election Day that they could not vote a ballot that would count because they were not properly registered at their new addresses. Our voter registrations don’t follow us when we move.
Many other eligible voters are just too distracted by the daily demands of work and family to register to vote before the deadline passes.
HB 5024, the SDR bill, offers a simple solution to these common problems. Just drop by your local registrar’s office on Election Day, fill out a voter registration application or update your existing voter registration, show proof of residency, and vote.
It’s important to note that Same Day Registration holds special benefit for young people, lower-income voters and voters of color — segments of the electorate with higher rates of geographic mobility. It’s no coincidence that their registration rates lag behind others. Experts predict greater voter turnout increases for these citizens with Same Day Registration.
Almost a half-million eligible voters are not registered to vote in Connecticut. I applaud Governor Malloy and Secretary Merrill for their efforts to get them on the voting rolls. While we failed to enact Same Day Registration 25 years ago, Connecticut may now have the best chance in years to enact this progressive reform. I couldn’t dream of a better present to Connecticut voters on the Silver Anniversary of SDR’s initial introduction.