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The Carletonian

Historic voter turnout demonstrates the need for easier registration

<tional voter turnout was historic in the 2018 midterm elections. On Tuesday, more than 47 percent of eligible voters cast their ballots, compared to only 36.7 percent in 2014 and 41 percent in 2010. Tuesday saw the highest voter turnout in a midterm election since 1966, when 49 percent of the eligible population cast votes. According to early estimates from the Election Project, more than 60 percent of eligible voters voted in two states: Kansas and Minnesota.

Minnesota consistently leads the nation in voter turnout. Minnesotans turned out to vote at the highest rate of any state in the country in eight out of the past nine presidential elections, including in both 2012 and 2016. In 2016, about 75 percent of eligible Minnesotans cast ballots.

Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon attributes Minnesota’s phenomenal turnout rates to the state’s commitment to making access to the ballot simple and easy. In 1974, Minnesota became the second state to allow same-day voter registration, giving voters the option to register to vote at their polling place on Election Day. In 2012, about 18 percent of Minnesota voters registered at their polling place. Maine, New Hampshire, Colorado and Wisconsin were among the five states with the highest voter turnouts in 2016. Each of these top states also allow same-day voter registration.

Experts have attributed high voter participation to greater voter access, including both same day registration as well as automatic voter registration. In fact, research indicates that states with same-day voter registration see an average turnout seven points higher than states lacking the options. Oregon was the first state to implement automatic voter registration, registering citizens via DMV transaction. Oregon’s implementation of the option lead to a four point increase in turnout between 2012 and 2016, which is the highest increase of any state turnout between the elections.

Minnesota’s Senator Amy Klobuchar is the Ranking Member of the Senate Rules Committee, which has oversight jurisdiction over federal elections. She introduced legislation in 2017 that would require every state to automatically register eligible individuals when they turn eighteen. The bill would also require states that do not implement automatic registration to permit eligible individuals to register to vote on the day of a federal election.

On Tuesday, both Carleton and St. Olaf had higher voter turnouts than in the 2016 presidential election. Carleton had 953 voters in 2016 compared to 1048 in 2018, and St. Olaf had 821 in 2016 compared to 961 in 2018. These numbers are incredible, considering that voter turnout for young people is notoriously low, especially in midterm elections.

The Register America to Vote Act would likely improve voter turnout among all groups, but particularly among voters ages 18-29. Young people have a responsibility to vote. But legislators also have a responsibility to empower them to do so by offering options that make voting simple, easy, and efficient. I hope Congress passes Senator Klobuchar’s Register America to Vote Act, and I hope young people continue to show up to the polls.

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