With the stroke of the governor’s pen on Monday, Vermont became the 14th state to allow same-day voter registration. Proponents say the measure will help improve low turnout rates in Vermont elections. Critics though say it could make it easier to sabotage the democratic process. Secretary of State Jim Condos fielded calls from two town clerks last Election Day, each with the same urgent question: “I’ve got two people who just walked into my office to sign up to vote, can they vote on Tuesday?” Condos says regrettably, the clerks had a statutory duty to turn the would-be voters away. And he says the episode underscores the importance of the same-day voter registration bill signed into law by Gov. Shumlin on Monday. “Simply put, this is a voters’ rights bill,” Condos said.
Shumlin signed the legislation at a City Hall ceremony in Montpelier. He lamented woeful turnout in the last election cycle, when fewer than 45 percent of registered voters cast ballots.
“The numbers all show that with same day voter registration, voter participation goes up from anywhere between 7 and 14 percent,” Shumlin said. “That is a huge accomplishment to ensure that our democracy remains healthy.”