By Erick Johnson
State Representative Vernon G. Smith (D-Gary) announced this week that he introduced a bill during the 2021 legislative session that would permit same-day voter registration. The bill, HB 1301 would allow voters to register at the polls on the day of an election, providing they have not voted elsewhere and show an ID and proof of residence.
“We need to begin removing the harmful barriers that discourage people from exercising their right to vote,” Smith said. “There is strong evidence that same-day registration increases voter turnout. The more people we have participating in our democratic process, the better.”
Over time, same-day registration can increase voter turnout by three to seven points. It positively impacts turnout among younger voters, who often find the process more convenient.
In the 2020 General Election, 3,068,625 Hoosiers cast a ballot. That number is only 65 percent of the 4.7 million registered voters in Indiana. However, the average voter turnout for six of the states that have had a same-day registration option for several years is about 10 percent higher than states that don’t offer the option.
“The fear of fraud is more myth than reality when it comes to registration at polling places. There has been successful Election Day registration in other states, such as New Hampshire, which has had Election Day registration since 1993.”
Some states, such as California and Washington, allow voters to register on the day of the election by following an automatic system, which utilizes driver’s licenses or other state identification. This system could also bolster the safety of elections by connecting every polling location to the state voter registration system, cutting back on duplicate registrations and fraud.
“It’s simple: no adult should be turned away from the voting booth on Election Day and same-day registration ensures that any eligible voter can vote. We’ve spent 200 years expanding the franchise and over 100 years with declining participation in democracy at the same time. Voter participation helps transform voting from a privilege to the civil right that it’s meant to be.”
The bill would go into effect July 1, 2021. If the bill is passed this session, Indiana would become the 22nd state to enact same-day voter registration.
Smith’s bill face challenges in Indiana’s Republican Assembly. Republican states are less likely to pass same-day voter registration laws. According to national data, only six Republican states out the 21 states have same-day voter registration. The last Republican state to pass same day voter registration date was Montana, which signed it into legislation in 2005.