For Immediate Release
Vermont Governor Signs Bipartisan Election Day Registration Bill
Reform Can Boost Turnout and Increase Voters’ Access to the Ballot
Montpelier, Vt. - Come 2017, Vermonters will be able to register and vote on Election Day, under a new bill signed by Gov. Peter Shumlin (D) today. Vermont is the 14th state, plus the District of Columbia, to pass legislation to allow voters to register on Election Day, which can boost turnout and make it easier for eligible voters to cast a ballot that will get counted.
Since the 2010 election, 21 states have new laws making it more difficult to vote. This Vermont bill is an encouraging example of legislators putting aside partisan politics to pass a bill to expand access to voting.
Under the previous law, Vermonters needed to register six days before an election in order to cast a ballot. The legislation, which passed the Senate in January and the House in May, will allow citizens to register or update their records at their poll site on Election Day.
“This legislation represents one of the most significant expansions of voting rights in Vermont in decades,” said Julia Michel, Energy & Democracy advocate at the Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG). “Vermonters deserve convenient and accessible ways of participating in our democracy, and that’s exactly what this law is about.”
“The right to vote is the most basic of all political rights and AARP has a long tradition of supporting laws that give eligible voters more opportunities to participate freely and have their voice heard,” said Greg Marchildon, AARP Vermont State Director. “It is a good thing for our democracy and will boost Vermont’s lagging voter turnout.”
“Our voting system needs to be free, fair, and accessible to ensure every American can have a say in our democracy,” said DeNora Getachew, campaign manager and legislative counsel at the Brennan Center. “Allowing voters to register on Election Day offers freedom, convenience, and choice. It will bring more voters into the fold and help election officials keep the rolls clean and secure.”
“Today’s bill signing positions Vermont among a growing number of states that are leading efforts to ensure citizens have an equal voice in the decisions that impact their lives,” says Jodeen Olguín-Tayler, Director of Campaigns and Advocacy at Demos. “In a climate where the affluent and powerful exert outsized influence on policies that affect all of us, Election Day registration is a necessary reform to rebalance this dynamic. Demos applauds Vermont’s actions, and hopes other states are inspired by its example.”
Benefits of Election Day Registration
- Boosts Turnout. In the 2012 election, for example, four of the five states with the highest voter turnout offered voters the opportunity to register and vote on the same day, according to Demos, and average turnout was 10 percentage points higher in such states.
- Reduces Need for Provisional Ballots. If a voter shows up at the polls and is not on the rolls, the only option is casting a provisional ballot, which too often goes uncounted. Election Day registration reduces the need for provisional ballots because voters can register on the spot and cast a ballot that counts. For example, Iowa saw a 67 percent drop in provisional ballots after implementing this reform.
- Facilitates Corrections and Updates to the Voter Rolls. In many states without Election Day registration, voters must proactively update their voter registration days or weeks before the election. Election Day registration helps keep the voter rolls up to date by providing voters an additional opportunity to update their registration information at the polls on Election Day.
By enacting this reform, Vermont joins the nearly two dozen states that have modernized their voting systems since 2012, according to the Brennan Center. The most popular reforms are upgrades to the voter registration system, including online registration.
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The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law is a non-partisan public policy and law institute that focuses on fundamental issues of democracy and justice. Our work ranges from voting rights to redistricting reform, from access to the courts to presidential power in the fight against terrorism.