Can We Get Some Small-d Democracy?

I have long advocated for a strong pro-democracy agenda to repair and strengthen our broken electoral system. The needs are many--from creating an Election Day holiday, to requiring voting machines that produce a voter-verified paper trail, to re-enfranchising former
felons who have served their sentences, to public campaign financing.

Just this past week, when my 18 year old daughter was back from college
for fall break and told me it was too complicated to go register this
Tuesday, I realized why we need another important reform I've written
about for these last few years--same day voter registration.

Last week, the Same Day Registration Act was introduced by Senator Russ
Feingold (S.1986) and Congressman Keith Ellison (H.R. 3957) requiring
states to provide for same day registration (SDR). With SDR, a citizen
who misses a voter registration deadline can register at the polls on
Election Day or the period leading up to it, and then cast a valid

Voting participation in the US averages an abysmal 50 percent for
presidential elections and 40 percent for congressional elections. SDR
has already proven it makes a real difference.

In the 2008 election, the top five states for voter turnout were
Minnesota, Wisconsin, Maine, New Hampshire, and Iowa. All had a turnout
of 70 percent or more and all have same day registration. A total of
nine states currently allow for it--the others are Idaho, Montana, North
Carolina, and Wyoming.

"In these states, some of which have used SDR for 35 years, voter
participation rates in Presidential Elections are consistently 7 to 12
percentage points higher than in states without [the] law," said Miles
Rapoport, President of Demos, a national public policy center that has studied and advocated for
Same Day Registration for nearly a decade.

"Election Day registration is a prime example of sensible modernization of our voter registration system," said Rob Richie, a Nation
contributor and Executive Director of FairVote.
"Voter registration should be about running efficient and secure
elections and never a barrier to fair access to participation. With
today's statewide voter registration databases and modern technology,
we can make election day registration work as a complement to steps to
establish full and accurate voter rolls."

Senator Feingold and Congressman Ellison both pointed to SDR's success
in their states and the logic of making it standard practice for federal

"Helping more Americans exercise their right to vote is in the best
interests of our democracy," Senator Feingold said. "The system in
Wisconsin, which allows for same day registration, has worked well for
more than 30 years and is a major reason why Wisconsin is a national
leader in voter turnout....We should take action to get more people
involved in the political process and same day registration is a proven
way to do it."

"Minnesota routinely leads the nation in voter turnout-usually over 70
percent," Congressman Ellison said. "We do so because in Minnesota our
right to vote is a sacred right and a moral obligation.... Enacting a
National Election Day Registration law would do for the nation what same
day registration has done for our state-give a voice to all who want to

The bills currently have four cosponsors in the Senate, and five in the
House. This is an important step to help put our nation on the path to
a more perfect union. Tell your legislators to support this legislation.

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