First utilized by Maine in 1973, Election Day Registration (EDR) is a voter registration rule that allows individuals to register and then to vote on Election Day. Though policies vary among the states that allow EDR, typical implementation involves the appearance of an eligible individual at his or her designated polling place, providing proof of identification and residency, filling out the necessary registration application and voting.
EDR has proven to be a significant boost to voter participation in the states that have adopted it. In those states, average turnout rates that are 10-12 percentage points higher than national averages, showing the strength of EDR’s ability to lower barriers to voter participation.
Following Maine’s adoption of the policy, Minnesota and Wisconsin both followed suite later that decade. Six more states adopted EDR legislation through the 1980’s and 90’s, including Idaho, Iowa, Montana, New Hampshire, and Wyoming all passed resolutions allowing for Election Day Registration in varying forms. North Carolina’s version went into effect in 2007. All together, nine states currently have some form of EDR.
Despite the growing acceptance of EDR across the country and its smooth implementation for 35 years, including decades of operation before the recent advent of statewide voter databases mandated by the Help American Vote Act (HAVA), there is still stiff resistance to adopting such policies in a majority of the states. Many of the attacks emanate from the misguided notions of partisans seeking electoral advantage. Some partisans expect that EDR laws will unfairly advantage one party over another, while other raise the specter of so-called voter fraud and paint EDR as a way to game the system, despite the fact that only a handful of voter fraud have occurred in states with EDR between 1999 and 2005.