05 October 2008

Registration Lamentation

Why do we have to register to vote a month in advance of the election? Check out the states with the highest voter turnout in the 2004 election (taken from StateMaster.com):

1. Minnesota 76.7%
2. Wisconsin 73%
3. Maine 72%
4. North Dakota 70.8%
5. Oregon 70.6%
6. Montana 69.9%
7. New Hampshire 68.9%
8. Iowa 68.8%
9. South Dakota 67.1%
10. Missouri 66.3%

76.7%!!! That is like downright European. I live in Virginia, currently 36th down on the list. Why does Minnesota have such great turnout? Is it that Minnesotans are a whole bunch more politically engaged? Less disillusioned? More civically minded? No. Turns out that of these 10 states, 5 have at-the-polls registration (Maine, Minnesota, Montana, NH, Wisconsin, Wyoming), Oregon has by mail voting and North Dakota has no registration requirements. Many European countries automatically register voters (check out Germany, Denmark) or make registering compulsory (UK). So when we hear the inevitable post-election lamentations regarding poor voter turnout, I think we need to examine how draconian registration requirements prevent Americans from voting rather than blame a hypothetically apathetic citizenry. Word.

No comments: