In the last election, there were over 224 million American citizens over the age of 18 in the United States, and yet only around 157 million were registered to vote.
In the United States, at the age of 18 every American male is automatically sent a letter telling him he could potentially be called for the draft. In contrast, not a single American is automatically registered to vote in the same way.
On top of this, voting registration deadlines are notoriously confusing. Voter registration deadlines for the general election range by state from 31 days before an election to in-person on the day of the election.
To complicate matters, states have different laws for different types of registration. For instance, a Maryland resident must register to vote in person, online or by mail 21 days before the election. However, if voting during the early voting period, that Maryland resident can register in person between 13 and 5 days before the election. Some states do not even allow voter registration online.
This process becomes even more difficult when Americans want to participate in elections leading up to the general election.
These complicated and varying laws by state mean that extensive research is needed to know when and how to register to vote in each state. This can be extremely difficult for populations that have little or no access to the internet or time to know whom to ask.
Ultimately, this convoluted registration system is decreasing turnout in many areas in the United States. We know this because same-day voter registration has a history of increasing voter turnout and therefore voter participation in our democracy.
A report by Nonprofit Vote looked at voter turnout by state in 2016 and highlighted the states with same-day registration. The report found a high correlation between voter turnout and states with same-day registration in 2016.
Nonprofit Vote has tracked this difference between states that have same-day voter registration and those that do not since 1996. States that have same-day registration have consistently shown higher turnout.
Approaching this issue from another angle, some states have implemented legislation that approximates universal registration which has led to positive results: In Oregon, eligible voters are automatically registered to vote if they have a driver’s license; The Brennan Center for Justice reports that since that legislation was passed in 2015, Oregon has seen significant registration increases.