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Election-Day Registration Doesn't Favor Dems or the GOP

Posted: 04/17/2013 1:46 pm

In his April 9 article about proposed legislation that would, among other things, allow citizens to register to vote through Election Day, Durango Herald reporter Joe Hanel wrote:

Conventional wisdom holds that same-day registration will give Democrats an advantage. However, academics who have studied the idea find the evidence for it is sketchy.

Hanel didn't cite a specific academic, but his assertion is, in fact, correct.

Not that it matters. Presumably, in America, we want as many people to register and vote as possible, within budget and security constraints, whether they do it picking their nose in the shower or on Election Day at the polls. In other words, the debate about whether same-day registration favors one side or the other is irrelevant, unless you're against voting.

But, in any event...

I called Associate Professor Michael McDonald at George Mason University, and he told me that early voting and same-day registration may, in some situations, benefit Democrats and, in others, benefit Republicans.

"It depends on the ability of the campaigns to mobilize voters," he told me. "In different situations, Democrats may win the early vote. Republicans may win the early vote in other situations. It depends on the context."

In 2010, I interviewed Curtis Gans, Director of the Center for the Study of the American Electorate, about whether he believes same-day registration benefits Democrats or Republicans. Gans is not a Ph.D., but he is a widely quoted independent expert, who's been associated with American University, the Woodrow Wilson Center, and elsewhere.

'I think it's not predictable at all,' he answered. 'We have been shown that it's not predictable one way or the other. There's plenty of evidence.'

He added: 'So long as a state does not have a history or likelihood of abuse of the registration system... fraudulent registration, voting in the name of dead people, that sort of thing... there is no harm and maybe a little good that can come out of election-day registration.'

Colorado has no such history of election fraud, as far as I could find.

I asked Gans, 'What's the little good that can come of same-day registration?'

'The good part is, that if people get interested in the election closer to the election, they don't have to sit it out because they're not registered,' he told me. 'That's the good part. It enhances the opportunity to vote.'


I called Gans yesterday to get an update on the situation. He told me his view remains the same.

"It's also true with in-person early voting," Gans said. "In 2004, the Republicans got the benefit of in-person early voting. The last two elections the Democrats did. It depends on the political climate."

Colorado's current practice is to cut off voter registration 29 days before ballots are cast.

"It depends on who's motivated to go vote," Gans said, adding that he doesn't think there's any dispute among election experts on this point.

 

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