Tomorrow, when Iowa Republicans gather across the state to vote on their party’s presidential nominee, one important tool will be available to boost turnout: election day voter registration.
Though Iowa, unlike most states, permits those who haven’t registered (or just need to update their file after a move, for instance) before election day to do so when they show up at their precinct during regular elections, the Huffington Post notes that the Iowa GOP is in charge of setting the rules for its own caucuses.
Despite nationwide efforts to make voting more difficult, the Republican Party of Iowa decided to buck the trend and allow for on-site registration. In doing so, however, they necessarily undercut the argument being made by GOPers in many other states that election day registration (EDR) invites fraud. (Of course, voters are 39 times more likely to be struck by lightning than commit fraud at the polls, and EDR actually helps prevent already-miniscule levels of fraud.)
Residents of just nine states currently enjoy EDR: Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. However, in a number of these states, the GOP-led war on voting has targeted EDR for repeal, most notably in Maine. Republicans in the Maine legislature passed a bill ridding the state of EDR, only to see the popular program reinstated by referendum in November by an overwhelming 61%-39% margin.
Election day registration will certainly help boost participation in tomorrow’s Iowa caucuses. A 2001 study found that states which employ election day registration (EDR) boost their voter turnout rate by 7 percentage points, without partisan gain for either side. The study found that poorer and less educated voters benefited the most from EDR. ThinkProgress spoke with a number of Maine voters who also lauded the ability to update their registration if they’ve recently moved, particularly because most residents are at work during the day and unable to visit the election clerk during normal business hours.
Had the Iowa GOP followed the lead of their brethren in Maine and elsewhere, thousands of Iowans who will cast their vote tomorrow with the help of election day registration could have been turned away from the polls.
Brad Friedman also points out that the Republican caucuses will not require voters to present a photo ID in order to cast their ballot, a requirement GOPers around the country pushed vigorously in 2011.