Tuesday, November 20, 2012

What do the 3 states with the highest voter turnout rate have in common?

According to one report, turnout in this election was 57.5% of eligible voters. Pardon me while I wallow in some bragging rights because - once again - my home state of Minnesota was number one in that category with a whopping 76% turnout. Sure, we had some important constitutional amendments (marriage equality and voter ID) on the ballot this time that likely boosted things a bit. But the truth is, we've been number one in voter turnout in the last 8 elections.

Joining Minnesota at the top of the list over time are Maine and Wisconsin. So it would be helpful to ask what these 3 states have in common. Some of us might suggest that its the fortitude developed by the citizenry in general as a result of surviving life in the northern tundra ;-) But really, there is a more simple explanation.

These are the 3 states that first adopted same-day voter registration. In other words, we can register at the polls on the same day we go there to vote. Since then, 8 other states have joined us - and its paying off everywhere.
These states enjoy the highest turnout in the nation not by chance, but because Election Day Registration boosts turnout by 7 to 14 percentage points. In addition, studies show that minorities, poorer voters, and students benefit the most from being permitted to register on Election Day.
And so - of course - Republicans want to get rid of the practice. Last year in Maine, they tried to get rid of it legislatively. But voters got it put to a referendum and won convincingly.

Now Gov. Walker is talking about wanting to get rid of it in Wisconsin.
"States across the country that have same-day registration have real problems because the vast majority of their states have poll workers who are wonderful volunteers, who work 13 hour days and who in most cases are retirees,” Walker said. “It’s difficult for them to handle the volume of people who come at the last minute. It’d be much better if registration was done in advance of election day. It’d be easier for our clerks to handle that. All that needs to be done."
I'm not sure what "real problems" it is he is referring to. He seems to be indicating that these retired volunteer poll workers just can't handle the job. But we all know that's bullshit, don't we? What's really at stake here is the single most effective mechanism we've seen lately for increasing voter turnout.

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