This week, the Vermont House passed a bill that will allow voters to register to vote at a polling place on Election Day. Under the current law, the registration deadline is the Wednesday before the election.
The House made a few changes to the original Senate bill text, which the Senate concurred with on Thursday. In addition to adopting Election Day Registration, the bill will require the Secretary of State to submit a report by January 15 on how the office can let town clerks enter absentee ballots into vote counters before Election Day, and how to provide Internet access to all polling places. The required report would also assess whether the state can implement automatic registration at the Department of Motor Vehicles (the first law of this kind was recently passed in Oregon), recommend how to use public service announcements to increase early registration, and detail which states require identification for same-day voters. The current bill does not contain a voter ID requirement.
Governor Peter Shumlin is expected to sign the bill and his spokesperson indicated that the governor is “supportive of the bill,” but will “have to review the bill when it gets to us.”
If signed, the law would take effect in 2017. Because it will not require voters to provide formal identification while registering and casting their ballot, some opponents have expressed concerns about potential fraud. However, supporters are pleased that ID or proof or residency requirements will not disenfranchise those seeking to vote.
In the 2014 midterm, Vermont ranked 28th in voter turnout, with 39.4% of eligible voters casting ballots, falling from 10th place in 2010. Nonprofit VOTE’s America Goes to the Polls 2014 report found that in 2014, states with Election Day Registration had average turnout of 48%, 12 points higher than turnout in states without EDR.
Maine was the first state to allow Election Day Registration, with the law taking effect in 1973.