Voter registration: Nine facts for National Voter Registration Day

A clipboard with Michigan Voter Registration Applications gets filled out for a Western Michigan University student during the Rock the Vote campaign outside of the Bernhard Center in Kalamazoo, Mich., on Wednesday afternoon, Sept. 19, 2012. (AP Photo/The Kalamazoo Gazette, Matt Gade) ALL LOCAL TV OUT; LOCAL TV INTERNET OUT


Registration Day: What you need to know about voter registration

Storified by Digital First Media · Tue, Sep 25 2012 07:06:33

Tuesday, Sept. 25, is National Voter Registration Day, a single day of action led by a group of nonprofits to help register as many voters as possible. Here are some facts about voter registration in the U.S. today.

About 79 percent of eligible U.S. voters are registered.

A study by the Pew Center on the States in 2010 found that 79 percent of the 217 million people eligible to vote in the U.S. had registered, or around 135 million. Of those, 90 million cast ballots, about 41 percent. 

Voter registration is automatic in many other countries.

A report by the Brennan Center for Justice notes that the U.S. is one of the few countries to make voters entirely responsible for registering. In Canada, for example, voters are added to the rolls when they turn 18 automatically.

Voter registration is expensive in the United States.

A landmark study by the Pew Center and Oregon election officials found that it cost Oregon about $4.11 per active registered voter in 2010. According to the Pew Center, it costs taxpayers 12 times more per voter than in Canada.

In 13 states, you can register to vote online. 

Arizona led the way in 2002 with an online voter registration program. Today, over 70 percent of voter registrations in that state were done online. A dozen other states followed suit, including California, Colorado, New York and Ohio. 

But many state websites need improvement.

A report by the Pew Center found that 12 state election websites, including Pennsylvania, New York and Texas, needed serious work and 29 states, including D.C., were just average. Only 10 state sites were rated “good.”

You can also register through a Netflix-like service.

One startup aims to make it easier to register to vote by allowing users to fill out a form online. TurboVote then mails you an official document and a pre-printed envelope. All you have to do is sign it and drop it in the mail.

In Washington, you can register to vote on Facebook.

In July, Washington became the first state in the country to allow voters to register through a Facebook app. The app pulls your name and date of birth from your profile then asks for information from a driver’s license or state ID.

In eight states, you can register on Election Day.

Wisconsin has allowed voters to register on Election Day since 1971. In recent years, a number of other states have followed suit. California and Connecticut passed laws this year that will not be implemented in time for this November’s elections.

Election Day registration boosts turnout by 7 points.

A 1995 study by professors at the University of California at Irvine and Virginia Tech found that allowing voters to register on Election Day boosts turnout about seven percentage points in the average state.

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