It's time that Connecticut join other progressive states and adopt Election Day registration — a change in our voting rules that, judging by experience elsewhere, is certain to boost voter turnout at elections.
In Connecticut, the deadline for registering to vote is now 14 days before the general election and five days before a primary. Unregistered voters who get caught up in the excitement in the final days before the election are out of luck if they want to vote. There's no good reason for not letting them register to vote even on Election Day.
All they would need to do is present the required identification at their polling place. Their names and addresses could be cross-checked on the spot through a database.
The General Assembly passed an Election Day registration bill in 2003, but it was vetoed by Gov. John G. Rowland, who said he feared a person could cast votes in multiple districts. But advocates for EDR say fraud has not been a problem in the states that have adopted it. By contrast, fraud has been a huge problem under Connecticut's lax absentee voting system — people have gone to jail for it — but few are interested in properly tightening up and policing absentee voting.
This year, advocates asked the government administration and elections committee to raise an Election Day registration bill, but Sen. Gayle Slossberg, a committee co-chairwoman, said no. She is said to be concerned that there is not enough time in this short session to shepherd through a controversial concept that is regarded skeptically by many local registrars and some party leaders. Advocates said they were also told that lawmakers do not have confidence in the reliability of the voter database. If that's the case, the state should spend the money to fix it.
People should be given every encouragement to vote. The health of our democracy depends on the engagement of citizens. Election Day registration is one such encouragement.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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