Same day, automatic registrations simplify voting in America

Daron Shaw
Commentary

Daron Shaw

Professor, University of Texas at Austin
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Voting in the United States is largely a two-step process. First you register, then you vote. But two options make voting a one-step process: same day registration and automatic registration.

“The United States is somewhat distinct compared to other democracies in that we require voters for the most part to register prior to election day in order to participate in election day,” Professor Daron Shaw said.

Same day registration allows voters to walk into the polling location, register, and cast their ballot on election day.

It is offered in 20 states plus Washington, D.C.

National Conference of State Legislatures

“That first step is essentially done simultaneously with the second step. So it really is only a one step process,” said Shaw, who has served on national commissions for Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

Evidence has shown same-day registration boosts voter turnout by 3 to 7 percent, depending on the state.

“It’s not surprising that the more onerous the registration requirement, the more people feel like they don’t want to bear the price of that cost and therefore don’t vote,” Shaw said.

The average voter turnout nationwide for the 2020 election was nearly 70 percent. The top five voter turnout states all have same day registration, while four of the bottom five do not.

MIT Elections Performance Index

“The evidence that I’ve seen doesn’t suggest that there’s a partisan effect on same day voter registration. By moving to same day registration, it doesn’t help or hurt Democrats or Republicans. It seems to be non-partisan in that sense,” Shaw said.

“It also doesn’t seem to have much of an impact on, or differential impact on different groups. Whether they’re racial, ethnic, age groups, education groups,” he continued.

Automatic registration is available in 22 states plus Washington, D.C. It’s exactly how it sounds: automatic.

National Conference of State Legislatures

“Instead of having an opt-in system in which you have to proactively register to vote, you have an opt-out that is you have to proactively decide or determine that you’re not going to vote,” Shaw explained.

The process is most commonly conducted by a state’s department of motor vehicles. When an eligible voter either registers or makes changes to their driver’s license, their voter registration status is automatically updated.

“Well the pros are fairly straightforward. It’s easier to vote if there is no real proactive step necessary for registering,” Shaw said. “The cons are that there is some sense that it might be more difficult or the probability of ineligible voters casting ballots will be increased.”

Voting in the United States is largely a two step process. First you register, then you vote. 

But there are other easier options. Same day registration and automatic registration. 

To help explain both, here’s Straight Arrow News contributor professor Daron Shaw. 

Shaw says: “The United States is somewhat distinct compared to other democracies in that we require voters for the most part to register prior to election day in order to participate in election day.”

But same day registration allows voters to walk into the polling location, register, and cast their ballot on election day. 

It’s offered in 20 states plus DC. 

Shaw says: “That first step is essentially done simultaneously with the second step. So it really is a one step process.” 

Evidence shows same day registration boosts voter turnout by 3 to 7 percent, depending on the state. 

Shaw says: “It’s not surprising that the more onerous the registration requirement, the more people don’t feel they don’t want to bear the price of that cost and therefore don’t vote.” 

The average voter turnout nationwide for the 2020 election was nearly 70 percent. The top five voter turnout states all have same day registration. Four of the bottom five do not. 

Shaw says same day registration doesn’t help or hurt democrats or republicans. 

Shaw says: “It seems to be non-partisan in that sense. It also doesn’t seem to have much of an impact on, or differential impact on different groups. Whether they’re racial, ethnic, age groups, education groups.” 

Next let’s look at Automatic voter registration – available in 22 states plus Washington D.C. It’s exactly how it sounds – automatic. 

 Shaw says: “The default is that you are, if eligible, a registered voter. Instead of having an opt-in system in which you have to proactively register to vote, you have an opt-out that is you have to proactively decide or determine that you’re not going to vote.” 

So how does it work? It’s most commonly done through the DMV. When an eligible voter either registers or makes changes to their drivers license, their voter registration status is automatically updated. 

Shaw says: “Well the pros are fairly straightforward. It’s easier to vote if there is no real proactive step necessary for registering. The cons are that there is some sense that it might be more difficult or the probability of ineligible voters casting ballots would be increased.” 

To learn more about voting and elections in America – keep watching our series on youtube or straightarrownews.com

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