Same-Day Registration Bill Would Increase Voter Turnout

DOVER – As part of House Democrats’ ongoing effort to expand and improve residents’ access to voting and increase voter turnout, House Majority Whip John Viola filed a bill Wednesday that would allow Delaware residents to register to vote on Election Day.

House Bill 400 would make Delaware the 19th state to allow same-day voter registration, which permits eligible residents to register to vote and cast their ballots on the same day.

“Our goal as a society should be to encourage more people to be part of the electoral process, not less,” said Rep. Viola, D-Newark. “Right now, we have an arbitrary deadline to register to vote of three weeks before an election. Some people, often young people or those who just moved to the state, don’t think to register to vote until it’s right before the election, and by then it’s too late. Election Day registration has been around for decades and is proven to safely and effectively increase voter turnout, so it’s time for Delaware to take this step forward.”

Under HB 400, a person would be able to register to vote at his or her polling place on the day of a presidential or state primary or general or special election by showing a valid government-issued photo identification card, current utility bill, bank statement, paycheck or other government document displaying the name and address of the person registering to vote. Those are the same criteria required for a person registering to vote under current Delaware law.

Current state law sets the last day to register before an election at the “fourth Saturday prior to the date of the election.” This year, that would fall on October 13 before Election Day on November 6.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, same-day registration has existed in Maine, Minnesota and Wisconsin since the mid-1970s. Since then, more than a dozen other states and the District of Columbia have adopted same-day registration, and more than a dozen other states are contemplating similar laws.

A study of the 2016 elections found that the six highest-ranking states for voter turnout offered same day voter registration (SDR), which allows voters to register or fix a registration problem when they vote. Voter turnout in states with SDR was seven percentage points higher than states without the option.

The House passed a similar version of the bill in 2014. If passed, HB 400 would be effective on January 1, 2019.

The bill has been assigned to the House Administration Committee.