Today, September 26, is National Voter Registration Day. First celebrated in 2012, National Voter Registration Day serves to raise awareness about voter registration deadlines so that all eligible voters are able to participate in upcoming elections.
Volunteers will set out on voter registration drives in their communities and encourage people to register online if that cannot make it to a nearby drive. Last year, approximately 750,000 voters registered on National Voter Registration Day.
In the United States, voter turnout is affected by state voter suppression that takes the form of strict voter ID laws, purging of voter rolls, and a general lack of education about important voter registration deadlines.
Just before the 2016 presidential election, 31 states had voter ID laws that affected 21 million Americans. The majority of these people are low-income, people of color, and the elderly, who are hindered for a number of reasons, including lacking the necessary funds needed to obtain the documents required to secure an ID.
Voter registration is further limited by efforts to mitigate voter fraud, which ultimately blocks eligible voters from registering due to unnecessary and overly complicated voting procedures. Recently, the Trump Administration launched the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity to address President Trump’s suspicions that fraudulent votes were cast against him in the 2016 presidential election. The Commission is led by Vice President Mike Pence, along with Kansas Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach, and other right wing officials. Many voting rights advocates have called into question the mission of the commission, whether or not it is truly a bipartisan effort, and whether it will ultimately make voting more difficult. Bob Bauer, co-chair of the presidential election commission under the Obama administration, stated that the Commission on Election integrity “was destined to be a calamitous failure” and that “it was simply affected from the very beginning by partisan design and partisan leadership.”
Despite the controversy over the Commission on Election Integrity, there have been several wins regarding increased voter registration. This summer in Texas, a state with some of the harshest voter ID laws in the country, a US District judge struck down Texas’s revised voter ID law (Senate Bill 5) on the basis that it continues to discriminate against African American and Latino voters. The law would have required individuals to show one of a limited selection of six government issued photo identifications when they went to vote.
Some states, including Illinois and Oregon, have passed bills to implement automatic voter registration in the hopes that it will increase voter turnout. In 2017, over twenty states have introduced legislation advocating for implementation of automatic voter registration.
To see what you need to do to register to vote in your state, click here.
Media Resources: Feminist Newswire 8/24/17, 6/5/17, 11/03/16; National Voter Registration Day; The Washington Post 9/16/17; Politico 9/18/17