Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Harkin Backs Federal Election Day Registration

Harkin Backs Federal Election Day Registration

Senator Tom Harkin has joined other senators from states with election day voter registration is backing a bill that would extend same-day registration to all states.

But the delegation from Iowa, the newest same-day registration state, is not united, with Rep. Steve King voicing his opposition.

Harkin is cosponsoring Senate bill 2959, first offered by Senators Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Russ Feingold of Wisconsin. Senator Jon Tester of Montana has also co-sponsored the bill.

All four co-sponsors are Democrats from states with election day voter registration. The issue has a long partisan history. A Democratic Iowa legislature passed election day registration in the 1980s, but Republican governor Terry Branstad vetoed the bill. When Democrats took over the state government trifecta of House, Senate, and governor in the 2006 election, same-day registration was high on the priority list for the 2007 session.

The law took effect Jan. 1 of this year and faces its first major test in the June 3 primary. The largest election to use the procedure thus far was last week's Polk County special election, where a $132 million courthouse bond was defeated. Polk County Auditor Jamie Fitzgerald told the Des Moines Register that only 20 or 30 voters, out of more than 31,000, used the election day registration procedure.

Wisconsin and Minnesota have both had same day registration for three decades. "Same-day registration works, it encourages people to be engaged and interested in the issues facing our country," said Klobuchar. "This bill gives a voice to every American who wants to vote."

"There are plenty of constitutional reasons why it's a bad idea," said King, arguing that a national bill would violate the principle of federalism and invite voter fraud.

"The argument is Republicans are opposed to things that make it easier to vote," King said. "No, we're opposed to things that erode the integrity of the people who are legitimate voters."

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