Nationwide same-day registration

Many voter registration laws are remnants of the Jim Crow age, meant to disenfranchise.

Last week, Rep. Martin Sabo, D-Minn., introduced legislation to nationalize same-day voter registration. Though Sabo faces an uphill battle, we applaud his efforts. Minnesotans take it for granted, but national same-day registration – though not a panacea – would go a long way toward removing the unjust and archaic hurdles many voters face while trying to vote.

The United States is a buffet of voter registration laws. Some states require a photo ID; some require registration a couple of months before voting. Oregon voting is done entirely by mail. The vastly different voting laws hinder the essential democratic act of voting. Thousands of voters are turned away each election after they have shown up to the polls only to find some registration technicality will not allow them to vote. Indeed, many of the voter registration laws are remnants of Jim Crow-age regulations meant to disenfranchise black people.

Minnesota’s turnout of 77 percent is a number many states should envy. This would not have been accomplished without same-day registering voters, who accounted for 20 percent of registered voters. Minnesota has had same-day registration since 1973 and, sadly, is only one of six states that have it.

Fears of voter fraud, though noble-minded, are entirely unwarranted, if the right steps are taken. Minnesota takes those steps and has had no serious voter fraud problems. Although the fact that Minnesota does not require a photo ID and allows people to vouch for voters has been under fire, such protests do consider the precautions Minnesota has taken to prevent voucher-related fraud. Vouchers must already be registered and sign a legal oath.

If someone has double-registered, Minnesota only has to check the records. The prison sentences and stiff fines are in line for those thinking they can abuse the system. Sure, the next elections are nearly two years away, but it is never too late to make voting a more inclusive process.