Voting day registration is necessary

Sinead Foley Oct 19, 2015
Editorials featured in the Forum section are solely the opinions of their individual authors.

Although it pains me to say it, I will not be voting this November. I woke up on Oct. 6 to a sinking feeling, immediately realizing I had missed the voter registration deadline. In order to vote in Pennsylvania on Nov. 3, you have to send in your registration form by Oct. 5. While this may seem like a trivial hassle, this limitation has real effects on voter turnout and the integrity of our democracy.

Eleven states and the District of Columbia allow same-day registration (SDR), and these test cases show that these policies are feasible and beneficial. There is simply no reason for the Pennsylvania State Senate not to pass a SDR bill. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t hear a peep about the November elections on Oct. 5. Next week, however, the media hype will kick.

In the final push for support, candidates splurge on ads, raising public awareness and excitement about Election Day. Some of that election fever might even slip into the campus bubble in the form of junk mail and newspaper editorials. The average voter isn’t thinking about politics for most of the year, but it's easy for them to ride that election hype to the polls, register, and vote. SDR allows this cycle to occur, and keeps voting from being the activity of elites and political junkies.

The benefits of SDR aren’t just theoretical. In 2012, SDR state Wisconsin experienced 70 percent voter turnout while the national average was down to 57 percent, according to FOX News. These benefits are reproducible in many states, with a study published in Social Science Quarterly finding that SDR raises voter turnout by an average of 7 percent. That doesn’t sound like much, but the American public should be grasping at anything that increases turnout. This year, Pennsylvania can expect only a third of eligible voters to turn up to the polls, and that’s a sad thing in a system that’s supposed to be majority rule.

The voter turnout crisis is more than disheartening — it’s discriminatory. As noted by the [New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2011/11/07/should-voting-in-the-us-be-mandatory-14/same-day-voter-registration-would-improve-turnout), the people who make up the voting minority are usually older, richer, whiter, and more educated than the general population. This means that the government is tailored to their needs and interests.

Young, college-age people in particular tend to have low voter turnout. If our generation wants to be heard politically, we need to start voting en masse. The wave of political hype that propels people to register and vote at the polls surges through social media, but it can only do its job and get the young vote out if the registration date hasn’t passed.

One of the strongest arguments against SDR is the cost. Any change in policy involves transition costs. New people have to be hired, different fliers have to be printed and posted, and volunteers have to be trained. However, the states that have implemented SDR have shown it’s very affordable. The cost for implementing the new policy in Iowa in 2007 was $50,000. I know $50,000 seems astronomical, particularly when it could pay my tuition for a year, but in state budget terms it’s “a pretty minor cost,” according to Iowa Deputy Secretary of State Linda Langenburg.

Ongoing costs from the switch were minor, and studies have found the costs were balanced out by the reduction of provisional ballots. With tax revenue in 2014 at $34 billion, over four times Iowa's tax revenue when it implemented SDR, it seems Pennsylvania should be able to shoulder the down payment for increased democracy.

At the end of the day, I’m still not voting this year. The best I can do is submit my application on Nov. 4 and get into the system for the presidential primaries. Still, I hope Pennsylvania can join the ranks of forward-thinking states that are doing right by their citizens and implementing SDR.