Exposing the false arguments against Election Day Registration

Today I wrote a letter to the Boston Metro:

“Election Day Registration would eliminate 99% of my headache during election season,” said Louise McCarthy, a Somerville elections administrator of 17 years. While her words cannot be taken to represent her city’s position, when added to the growing chorus rising through Massachusetts, her enthusiasm appears more epitome than exaggeration. Governor Deval Patrick, Secretary of State William Galvin, Mayor Thomas Menino, over 30 community organizations, a broad swath of State House law-makers, public hearings overflowing with citizens – the list of supporters goes on and on.

Shouldn’t this tidal wave be enough to dislodge the bill out of committee and onto the House floor for a final vote?

In the media, two issues have cropped as the remaining obstacles to EDR’s full embrace: the fear of increased voter fraud and questions about EDR’s practicality. Thanks to scholarly research and the expertise of the eight states that already have EDR, these mostly theoretical arguments are receding.

The voter fraud argument has proven to be illusory, as the Globe pointed out two months ago in its coverage of the Brennan Justice Center’s comprehensive study. The Brennan report went case-by-case, state-by-state, and found that the vast majority of votes dubbed as frauds were actually products of clerical error (“Voter Fraud Fraud” 12/13/2007). Additionally, nonpartisan research group Demos cites that “a bipartisan team of consultants to the Election Assistance Commission reported widespread agreement that very little evidence existed of voter impersonation at the polls” (http://www.demos.org/sites/default/files/publications/Voters%20Win.pdf).

On the question of practicality, we see more of the same unsubstantiated fears. While some opponents of EDR feel it will be too cumbersome for over-taxed poll-workers, or too expensive to implement, this worry ignores a convenient reality: same-day registration will out-and-out replace the bloat of the provisional balloting system, which will actually serve to streamline the elections process by merging two voting pathways into one. The elections director in Wisconsin—one of the eight states that already have EDR—says that the savings in time and effort for this trade-off “alone makes EDR worthwhile.”

EDR’s benefits are now well-known and too clear to ignore. The elections commissioner for Minnesota—a state which has offered same-day registration since 1974—even flew into Boston in May to attend a committee hearing and testify to the ease and integrity of EDR’s implementation in his state. Election Day Registration also helped to make his state a champion of the youth vote, with a whopping 70% turnout for voters age 18-25 in the 2004 Presidential election (http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1576132/20071210/index.jhtml).

So what will it take to dislodge the Election Day Registration bill? At minimum, a few phone calls. Call your state senator and representative and ask them to support S446/ HR646.