Amicus To Uphold Ohio's "Same Day Registration Law" Filed
COLUMBUS, Ohio - Demos and other voting rights advocates filed a brief in the Ohio Supreme Court today urging the court to uphold Ohio's procedures allowing a period of Same-Day Registration (SDR) for the upcoming November 2008 election. Under provisions that have been in place since 2006, eligible Ohio voters can register and cast an absentee ballot on the same day if they appear in person at their local board of elections from September 30th through October 6th, after which registration closes. Ohio Republicans have sued to halt the practice, and today's filing responds to that lawsuit.
Same Day Registration is a voter-friendly policy that will make voting accessible for thousands of Ohioans, said Brenda Wright, Legal Director of Demos' Democracy Program. The courts should reject any last-minute effort to interfere with this practice, because such efforts only sow confusion and will disfranchise eligible voters.
The amicus brief points out that denying absentee ballots to persons who register between September 30 and October 6 would not only violate Ohio law, but would infringe the rights of voters under several federal voting rights statutes and the Equal Protection guarantee of the U.S. Constitution.
The ACLU and Professor Daniel Tokaji of Ohio State University's Moritz College of Law led the effort to prepare the amicus brief filed on behalf of numerous Ohio organizations and national voting rights advocates, including the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, 1Matters, the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the League of Women Voters of Ohio, Project Vote, and the United States Hispanic Leadership Council, along with Demos.
The brief highlights the positive experience of nine states that already allow same-day registration, most of them on election day itself. These states include Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Wyoming, which allow same-day registration for most elections. In addition, both Connecticut and Rhode Island allow same-day registration in presidential elections.
Evidence over the past 35 years has shown that SDR states show turnout rates 10 to 12 percentage points higher than other states, and a substantial part of this improved voter participation anywhere from 3 to 6 percentage points is directly related to this reform.
This is typified by the high turnout North Carolina experienced during its early voting period this primary season. Over 261,505 people voted in advance of North Carolina's May 6th primary and almost 9 percent of those (22,505) took advantage of the opportunity to register at the same time.
Many Ohioans will benefit from having access to this new policy, particularly young first-time voters, persons with limited access to transportation, and the many thousands who can't afford multiple absences from a job or child care to register and vote at separate times. The experience of other states also shows that SDR can be administered efficiently and without threatening the integrity of elections.