What is Same-Day Voter Registration?
For many citizens of the United States, voting is their primary means of participating in federal, state, and local politics. Nearly every state requires citizens to register before they can vote. Although almost every citizen is eligible to vote, not every citizen is registered to do so.
In an effort to increase voter participation in elections, nearly half of the states in the U.S. have enacted some form of same-day registration for voters. In the states that have same-day registration, voters can both register to vote and cast their vote on Election Day.
What Is Same-Day Voter Registration?
Same-day voter registration allows voters to show up to their local polling place on Election Day and register to vote before casting their ballots. Which states have same-day voter registration? Currently, the following states allow some form of same-day voter registration:
|District of Columbia||Minnesota||Washington|
Requirements for Registering on Election Day
Each state has its own same-day voter registration requirements, but voters in every state will need to verify two things:
- That a voter actually lives where they say they live
- That a voter actually is who they say they are
Although verification requirements differ from state to state, voters can always prove their identity and their residency by displaying some type of official ID (e.g. a driver's license, passport, etc.) and a document proving residency (e.g. a pay stub, utility bill, etc.).
How to Register Before Election Day
While eligible voters are able to register on Election Day in the states listed above, voters are wise to register to vote in advance, when possible. Thanks to the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) of 1993 (also known as the Motor Voter Act), eligible citizens can register to vote at state motor vehicle offices when applying for a driver's license or identification card.
The NVRA also allows eligible voters to register to vote at state public assistance agencies, e.g. agencies that provide Medicaid, food stamps, etc. These resources, in addition, to same-day registration, provide citizens with many opportunities to register and to exercise their right to vote in U.S. elections.
Registering to Vote Online
In addition to registering to vote at government agencies, citizens of most U.S. states can register online before an election. These online resources make registering to vote even more convenient for eligible American citizens.
Voter Eligibility Requirements
Because many of the critical functions of the U.S. government are decided by elections, making sure eligible voters are the only ones casting ballots in elections is a priority for the American government. As such, a person can only vote in a U.S. election if they are:
- An American citizen
- At least 18 years of age on Election Day
- A resident of a state where they plan to vote
- Registered to vote (except North Dakota, which does not require voters to be registered)
The voter eligibility requirements exist primarily to ensure the integrity of American elections, i.e. to make sure only Americans are participating in American elections. Voter registration is how state and federal governments make sure people meet all of the eligibility requirements before those people vote in an election.
The history of voting eligibility and registration in the United States is long and complicated, and the different rules and regulations states have regarding meeting voter eligibility requirements is still a controversial issue. However, more states are taking steps to make voting easier for eligible citizens and same-day voter registration is one of those steps.
Legal Resources for Voters
Voting is a critical right for most American citizens. Being able to make one's voice heard in the public political realm is one of the key features of a democracy and voting allows people to do just that.
As such, any unjust limitations of the right to vote should be treated seriously. If a person suspects their voting rights have been limited, they may want to consider seeking the advice and assistance of an experienced legal professional.