Tuesday, Anna North on Jezebel did a post on why she wouldn’t be voting:
… I can’t vote today, because I didn’t register in time. New York State’s voter registration forms had to be postmarked or filled out in person by October 8, and I missed that deadline. Obviously, this was really stupid of me… I’m definitely at fault here, and I feel pretty bad.
However! Requiring voter registration nearly a month before an election is also bad for democracy. Nine states — including Iowa, where I lived and voted before I moved to New York — allow election-day voter registration in some form or another, and those states have significantly higher voter turnout. According to a study by the Caltech/MIT Voting Technology Project, “residents of states with 30-day closing deadlines were anywhere from 3 to 9 percent less likely to turnout than residents of states with election day voter registration.” Public policy research group Demos.org reports an even greater effect, “States with EDR have historically boasted turnout rates 10 to 12 percentage points higher than states that do not offer Election Day Registration.” The Caltech/MIT researchers say registration deadlines have a greater effect on turnout than any other voting-practices policy, be it polling place hours or absentee ballot regulations.
Also, requiring early registration disproportionately affects certain social groups. According to the Caltech/MIT study, “the impact of the registration closing deadline was greater for voters with lower levels of educational attainment, and those who were generally less able to navigate the voter registration process in their state.” …
Young people aren’t the only ones who move a lot — so do low-income Americans. According to Demos, “Census data show that over 35 million people in America moved between 2007 and 2008. Approximately 45 percent of those moving during this period had incomes of less than $25,000.” By requiring early registration, New York and thirty-nine other states (North Dakota doesn’t require registration at all), are disadvantaging would-be voters who are young, who are poor, who move a lot, or who have trouble registering due to lack of information, lack of Internet access, limited English proficiency, working long hours, disability, or a host of other reasons. Since a lot of these voters are already disadvantaged anyway, early voter registration deadlines actually perpetuate social inequality by denying underprivileged groups a voice in the electoral process…
To be honest, I only got to vote yesterday because I took a cab to the registry office 15 minutes before the (extended) evening deadline on the final day for eligibility (October 6, in Massachusetts). Our town dumps you from the voting roles if you don’t mail back its biennial census form, and we do so much of our paperwork online these days that the form got lost. But I had the spare time & cash to show up on their doorstep with multiple forms of ID… and the incentive that I am really, really starting to hate the over-55 voting demographic, of which I will become a member next week.
It’s well worth reading the comments over at the link — there are all sorts of interesting discussions on why people don’t or can’t vote. Historically, the Real American(tm) tradition is that, despite our pious talk, voting regulation is not about ensuring that every citizen votes, but that only the right (Right) people be permitted the “privilege” of exercising the franchise.