Voters across the country should be able to register to vote on Election Day, no matter where they live, according to new legislation being introduced in the House Thursday.
Right now, just 17 states and the District of Columbia allow same-day voter registration, and the bill, introduced by Rep. Julia Brownley (D-CA), would mandate that the rest of the country join them.
“High participation in our elections ensures representation that works for the people, not special interests,” Brownley said in a statement to ThinkProgress before the bill’s introduction. “Same-day voter registration is one of the most effective tools for increasing voter turnout, which means better representation for everyday Americans.”
Brownley’s bill, called the “Same Day Registration Act of 2019,” would amend the Help America Vote Act of 2002.
“Each [s]tate shall permit any eligible individual on the day of a Federal election and on any day when voting, including early voting, is permitted for a Federal election… to register to vote in such election,” a draft of the bill text shared with ThinkProgress reads. Additionally, the bill would allow individuals already registered to vote to make same-day changes to their registration and cast their ballot.
Same-day voter registration has, as Brownley noted in her statement, been proven to increase turnout. As the National Conference of State Legislatures noted last month, however, by how much same-day registration increases turnout is hard to conclude, though a number of studies found an increase of between 3 and 7 percent higher voter participation.
According to Nonprofit VOTE and the US Elections Project, in 2016, the newest states to adopt same-day registration — Connecticut and Illinois — were among the top four states that saw increased turnout between 2012 and 2016, with increases of about 4 percent each.
Brownley’s legislation comes as Democrats officially become the House majority party Thursday. Already, party leaders have signaled voting rights issues will be a priority for the newly-elected Congress. First on the docket, presumed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has said, is a bill they’re symbolically calling H.R. 1, which would create a national voter registration system and expand access to early online voter registration.
The bill would also create new donor disclosure requirements for political organizations and provisions for public financing of elections, including a plan to multiply small dollar campaign donations. Additionally, it would end most first-class travel for federal officials and require that presidents release their tax returns, something President Trump has refused to do.