Voting on Election Day usually entails some pre-planning, with registration required several days, if not weeks, ahead of time in most places. But now, following a court decision last week, Massachusetts is under pressure to join more than a dozen other states — including Connecticut, Maine, and Vermont — in allowing residents to register or reregister on Election day, and vote moments later. While the state’s top election official is raising concerns about costs, research shows that allowing same-day, or election-day, registration can bolster democracy by motivating voters to go to the polls. “While most other election reforms show pretty mixed effects, Election Day registration . . . has produced a wide consensus that in pretty much every study you find positive and increased voter turnout,” said Professor Barry C. Burden, director of the Elections Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin, whose office oversees elections, said he is not opposed to the idea. But he said the state is appealing the Suffolk Superior Court ruling because election officials would need extra funding to deploy additional equipment and staffing for Election Day, or else there would be “chaos.” “Can it be done? Is it something we should do? Yes,” he said. “But it’s something we have to make sure we do right.’’
Officials from several states that have same-day registration said that while there have been logistical issues to iron out, they and the voters in their respective states have been generally happy with the policy.
“For us it’s been great,” said Denise Merrill, secretary of the state in Connecticut, which adopted same-day registration in 2013 and saw nearly 35,000 people take advantage of it this past November. “It’s enabled thousands of people to vote who would not have otherwise.”
Same-day registration has been done for decades in other states without the need for any special technology. And officials in some states, including Vermont and Connecticut, said they rolled it out without any significant boost in funding.