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Groups Seek Change In Voter Registration

New Rules Proposed To Aid Political Procrastinators

March 2, 2007
By MARK PAZNIOKAS, Courant Staff Writer

Maybe they were inspired by the late media buzz over the fight for control of Congress. Or maybe they are just the same folks who shop on Christmas Eve.

Whatever the case, about 358,000 residents of Wisconsin registered to vote on Election Day last fall, swelling voter turnout by an impressive17 percent.

Such political procrastinators would have been out of luck in Connecticut, where the cutoff for new registrations under most circumstances is a week before Election Day.

A coalition announced Thursday they are asking the General Assembly to embrace same-day registration, a change appropriate to a society accustomed to 24-hour banking, Internet shopping and other instant conveniences.

Miles S. Rapoport, a former Connecticut secretary of the state who now runs a national group that promotes participation in public life, said research shows that Election Day registration is the surest way to boost turnout.

The seven states that allow same-day registration averaged a turnout of 48 percent last fall, 11 percentage points higher than the other states, where registrations are cut off days or weeks before Election Day.

Some states allow registration at every polling place. In Montana, which allowed same-day registration for the first time last year, registration was possible only at central county offices, not an inconsiderable barrier in that rural state.

Still, 4,000 citizens registered and voted in Montana on Election Day, enough to potentially settle the state's close U.S. Senate race, which Democrat Jon Tester won by 3,500 votes.

Legislators, Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz, the League of Women Voters, Common Cause, DemocracyWorks and Rapoport's group, Demos, endorsed the concept Thursday.

"If you want people to participate, you can't bar the door and tell people to go away when they show up," said Sen. Gayle Slossberg, D-Milford, co-chairwoman of the government administration and elections committee.

The General Assembly authorized same-day voter registration in 2003, but Gov. John G. Rowland vetoed the measure, citing concerns about the potential for fraud. At the time, a statewide voter database necessary to root out duplicate registrations was incomplete.

Gov. M. Jodi Rell is open to the legislation, but she wants to see how fraud would be combated in the new measure, said a spokesman, Rich Harris.

Others are opposed.

"It opens things up to fraud. Registrars of voters and town clerks have been consistently against it, because it is hard to administer, especially in the cities," said Senate Minority Leader Louis C. DeLuca, R-Woodbury. "And it is hard to root out the potential of fraud."

But state Rep. Anne Haskell of Portland, Maine, said no allegation of fraud has been substantiated since Maine adopted same-day registration in the 1970s. Haskell was in Hartford on Thursday to promote the concept.

During the 2003 debate, Rep. Livvy Floren, R-Greenwich, advocated the change as bowing to human nature: "There are still a lot of Americans out there who subscribe to the theory that if it weren't for the last minute, nothing would get done."

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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