The Success of the National Voter Registration Act
This week as the National Voter Registration Act (“NVRA”) or more commonly known as the Motor Voter Law marks its 20th anniversary. For many, it’s difficult to remember when voter registration did not occur through motor vehicle office, public assistance, disability or armed forces recruiting office or by mailing in their voter application. These are just some of the ways that the NVRA has helped to register millions of person each year and to particularly bring low income persons in the process. Before the passing of the NVRA in 1993, voter registrations were lower in 1992 than in 1972. Many states barriers to registering voters—a Democratic right. The NVRA has greatly helped to making registering and changes registration information, simple and easier.
Although the NVRA has successfully helped to register millions of eligible voters, voter registration rates are no as high as they could be. There is still work to be done and additional ways to increase voter registration. The GOP has fought efforts to increase voter registration in many states, as seen from the 2012 election. Many states have implemented same day registration which allows persons to register and vote on the same day. Other states have limited the time for registering before becoming eligible to vote. States that allow for same day voter registration and voting have consistently higher voter turnout. In the 2012 election, according to demos.org, four of the top five states for voter turnout had same day registration. The average turnout in same day registration states was over 10 percentage points higher than in other states, according to demos.org. Currently, as of this writing, Maine, Minnesota, Wisconsin, California, Connecticut, Idaho, Iowa, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Wyoming, the District of Columbia, Maryland and Colorado now have same day voter registration.
Modernizing the voter process and allowing national same day voter registration for federal elections should be the next step. Specific communities with lower voter registration rates should be identified with voter registration outreach. A few recommended ones are expanding the NVRA into the Affordable Care Act Health Benefit Exchanges, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and Indian Health Services for Native Americans.
The 20th anniversary of the NVRA is just a reminder that the fight is not over yet to overcome barriers to voter registration. Making voter registration easier is still a fight that is ongoing. And by the efforts of the GOP, it will be a fight that continues into the future.