Thursday, October 28, 2010

Keeping Election Day Registration

Keeping Election Day Registration

The week before an election is an exciting time, as voters make their decisions, update those registrations ("I moved last year and I keep forgetting...") and in ever-increasing numbers cast their early ballots.

This used to be a sad and frustrating week, too, as people just tuning into the process had to be told: "I'm sorry, you missed the deadline. You can't vote." Right at the moment interest peaked, we used to shut down the rolls and lock people out of the process.

We don't tell people "you missed the deadline, you can't vote" anymore in Iowa. We have election day registration now. Tens of thousands of Iowans - more than 2000 in my county - used election day registration to participate in the 2008 election. It helped boost Iowa's turnout to among the nation's highest.

A Democratic legislature passed election day registration in 2007. Our Democratic governor, Chet Culver, signed it. Our Democratic secretary of state, Mike Mauro, supports it and successfully implemented it.

A Democratic legislature also passed election day registration in the 1980s. Terry Branstad vetoed it. The Republican candidate for secretary of state lists his election day registration "reforms" (sic) on a page headed "Voter Fraud," and wants to make election day registrants cast cumbersome and risky provisional ballots. It's the whole theme of that contest: Mike Mauro talks about helping people vote, Matt Schultz talks about making it harder to vote.

He probably wouldn't need to bother if he gets a Republican legislature - does anyone doubt they'd repeal it altogether? Last time Republicans controlled the Iowa House, they not only opposed election day registration - they tried to move the deadline back another week and a half, from 10 days to 20.

Wisconsin's had election day registration for 30-plus years without problems. We just got it here, and we could very easily lose it. Don't let it happen.

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