February 06, 2013 Print
    

Video: Walk-ins welcome ... on Election Day?




Some people aren't good with deadlines. I sympathise. But some deadlines are important, and so is personal responsibility--especially when it comes to exercising the right to vote.

Current state law allows voter registration with a paper form or online up to 29 days before an election and allows in-person registration up to 8 days before an election. These deadlines give county auditors time to process new registrations before the Election Day rush to process and tabulate the ballots.

HB 1267 would allow in-person voter registration right up to 5 p.m. on Election Day. That means a person--or 100 people, or 1,000--could walk into a county courthouse at 4:57 p.m. on Election Day and demand to be registered, given a ballot, and allowed to cast it. All this would happen at the same time county election officials are required to be processing and tabulating ballots. The National Conference of State Legislatures confirmed common sense in an issue brief on same-day voter registration, saying "it requires additional poll workers, additional ballots, additional voting equipment, and ... must be adopted along with safeguards to prevent fraud." Yet HB 1267 provides no--zero--more resources to counties.

Proponents argue that the Election Day crowd is really the whole point--that the purpose of the bill is to get more people to vote. Yet a lot of people are going to wait for the deadline, whenever it is. Many of the people who would show up to register on Election Day if HB 1267 becomes law are the same people who will show up 8 days earlier under current law. HB 1267 caters to a small group of people who simply don't care. At the Freedom Foundation, we believe in increasing voter turnout by educating people (hence our printing and distribution of more than 500,000 Informed Voter Guides last year, plus reaching more than 40,000 people online).

Eight states plus the District of Columbia allow people to register and cast a ballot on Election Day (though in one of those states, Montana, a repeal bill has passed the House). California and Connecticut plan to impliment Election-Day registration this year. Another two states allow same-day voter registration and voting during early voting but not on Election Day. Importantly, no all vote-by-mail state also has same-day voter registration. In Oregon, the deadline to register is 21 days before Election Day.

Washington State also already has high voter turnout. Last year, our voter turnout was higher than in four of the jurisdictions that allowed voter registration on Election Day. Yesterday, the Pew Center on the States lauded our state election processes as the second-best in the nation. Forcing county auditors to register voters on Election Day would jeopardize our election system, creating new possibilities for fraud or mistakes and imposing a significant unfunded mandate on local election officials.

Author

Trent England

Executive Vice President

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