Voter registration

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Voter registration is the requirement for citizens and residents to register specifically for the purpose of being allowed to vote in elections. An effort to enable people to register to vote is known as a voter registration drive.

In the United States, only 70 percent of Americans who are eligible to vote have registered.[1]

In all states, except North Dakota, registering to vote is required in order to cast a ballot.

Eligibility to vote in the United States

To be eligible to register to vote, the individual must meet three basic requirements:[2]

  1. be at least 18 years of age at the time of the next election;
  2. being a U.S. citizen; and
  3. be a resident of the jurisdiction where the individual is registering.

Under federal law, every state must allow residents to register to vote at least 30 days before Election Day, though many states extend the deadline to register. Additionally, in some states individuals who have been convicted of a felony or have been found by a court to be incompetent may be ineligible to vote.

For more information about voting laws and voting in your state, please use the search term 'Voting in STATE'.

History of voter registration in the United States

Voter registration originated in the early 19th century as a method of disenfranchisement. In the 19th century, the number of foreign-born immigrants increased dramatically and a registration system was developed to ensure that non-citizens could not vote. Near the beginning of the 20th century, other disenfranchisement issues arose, mostly concerning the ability of African-Americans to vote. Laws in the South were designed "expressly to be administered in a discriminatory fashion."

Between 1870 and WWI, though, most states opted to instate registration, usually to avoid the inevitable conflicts that arose between disenfranchised voters and election officials on Election Day.

The Progressive Era also brought new registration developments, allowing citizens an extended window to register, which contributed significantly to the increased participation of working-class people and immigrants.States mandated the new registration laws individually, so the end result was not uniform among states. In 1875, the Supreme Court upheld the states' right to grant suffrage to certain groups in Minor v Happersett, which upheld a lower court’s ruling.

During the 20th century, notable exceptions to the power of the states arose in the form of constitutional amendments. Attempts to enfranchise African-Americans culminated in the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which permitted federal examiners to investigate electoral offices in the South to ensure nondiscriminatory voter registration practices.[3]

National Voter Registration Act

Main article: National Voter Registration Act

In the 1970s and 1980s, many states were concerned that the numerous registration procedures and laws were decreasing voter turnout, so they attempted to simplify the process. Turnout was not significantly enhanced by these new reforms, so in 1993, President Clinton signed the National Voter Registration Act, which mandated that states allow citizens to register to vote by mail, at the DMV or at local public offices, such as welfare offices.

Voter registration modernization

There is a broad bipartisan coalition that is advocating for the modernization of the entire voter registration system in the United States. They argue that modernization would automatically register every eligible American to vote when they turn 18 or become citizens. Additionally, when voters move their registration will move with them. Proponents believe that modernizing voter registration will ensure voter registrations are permanent, especially helping students and members of the military and their families.

Moreover, modernization would also eliminate the burden on election officials caused by large number of late applications for voter registration. In turn, this could save states and localities millions of dollars in materials and labor. Lastly, proponents of modernization emphasize that it will help restore confidence in our democracy because the current voter registration rules and regulations leaves the system vulnerable to fraud and manipulation.[4][5]

Voter registration modernization is threefold:[4][5]

  • Automatic Registration: States will register every voter when they turn 18 or become naturalized citizens through information contained in other government lists, such as driving records, assistance rolls and other safeguarded information.
  • Permanent Registration: Through change of address and other lists, voters will stay on their states' rolls if they move within that state.
  • Election Day Correction: Any voter who either does not show up on the registration rolls or whose registration contains incorrect information will be allowed to register on the spot and cast a regular ballot on Election Day.

The Brennan Center for Justice notes that voter registration modernization "would add 50 million to the rolls, cost less and curb the potential for fraud."[5]

Voter registration news

This section displays the most recent stories in a Google news search for the term Voter + Registration

All stories may not be relevant to this page due to the nature of the search engine.

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See also

Ballotpedia:Index of Terms

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