Deciding on the Very Day

The League office in San Francisco handles dozens of telephone calls every fall from people asking about when they have to register to vote. In a city with many new voters and a population that moves frequently, the deadline for registration is a hot topic. This isn’t true everywhere. Seven states allow voters to register on election day, as an op-ed piece in today’s NY Times describes. Voter turnout in these states averages ten percent higher than in the country overall. As the authors of this piece argue, most citizens today have ID that makes it easy for them to establish their credentials for voting. Voter fraud is often cited as the reason for demanding early registration, but voter fraud has seldom been a problem. These days civic organizations and government agencies work hard to encourage people to get out and vote, but the turnout in the U.S. is lower than in many other countries. Having to register ahead of time is surely a part of this. The League and other groups might well turn their efforts to making same-day registration the law in California. People who vote have a sense of ownership and take more interest in what the government is doing. This is what makes a democracy strong.

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