Our View: Lawmakers can improve voter turnout rate by making registration easier
Published June 6th 2007 in The Fayetteville Observer

North Carolina is the 15th worst state in the country for voter registration because scores of young adults are opting out of the process.

Of the million North Carolinians who aren’t registered, about 400,000 are between 18 and 25, according to Democracy North Carolina.

But any political consultant will tell you that reversing the pattern is possible.

Young adults, who often bounce from one apartment or dorm room to another, are most likely to register and vote when the process is convenient for them.

That’s not the case in North Carolina, where people must register at least 25 days before an election. The early registration deadline is a problem because research has shown that most younger Americans don’t start paying attention to elections until the weeks immediately proceeding it. By then, in North Carolina, it’s too late to participate.

A bill that cleared a Senate committee on Monday could change that. The committee aproved a measure to allow voters to register up to three days before an election. The bill, which the House passed in March, would allow voters to register and cast their ballots at one-stop sites up to the Saturday before an election.

The measure is a practical change that could gradually boost registration rates. It is working in other states. As a matter of fact, the three states with the best records for voter turnout over the past 20 years — Minnesota, Maine and Wisconsin — allow residents to register and vote on Election Day.

Detractors argue that making voting simpler would also make fraud easier.

But state election officials say that the new system would actually be more secure than the current process because late voters would register in person instead of by mail or fax. The proposal would require that one-stop registrants show identification and sign an oath swearing that the addresses given are correct and that they are U.S citizens. People registering fraudulently would be guilty of two felonies.

Assuming that young people don’t vote because they are apathetic is a mistake. In states with same-day registration and voting, young people are showing up at the polls en masse to cast their ballots. North Carolina residents deserve the same convenient access to the voting booth.