Amidst Federal Inaction, States Lead the Way on Election Reform

BOSTON, March 28, 2019 /PRNewswire/ — On Thursday, March 28, New Mexico became the 20th state in the nation to adopt Same Day Voter Registration (also known as Election Day Registration), allowing eligible voters to register or fix a problem with their registration when they go to the polls. By doing so, New Mexico joins a growing list of states working to make election reform happen with or without help from the federal government.

Same Day Registration (SDR) is one of many election-related policies included in the H.R.1 that recently passed the House of Representatives. However, the bill is considered dead on arrival in the Senate. “While the federal government is stuck in gridlock, it’s good to see states are taking action now,” says Brian Miller, Executive Director at Nonprofit VOTE. “By enacting Same Day Registration, New Mexico and others are utilizing perhaps the most powerful tool they could find to optimize voter turnout.”

Although SDR has been around since the 1970s, it had only been implemented in a handful of states. As recently as 2014, only 11 states had SDR, but the policy has undergone a rapid expansion in the past five years as the number of states with the policy has grown dramatically. With the addition of New Mexico, 20 states across the nation – both red and blue – have now enacted this failsafe policy that lets voters address a registration issue in person during early voting or Election Day.

The recent America Goes to the Polls” report from Nonprofit VOTE and the US Elections Project sheds some light on the trend with data that illustrates just how effective the policy really is. In ranking all 50 states by voter turnout, the report shows that seven of the top 10 states had SDR. By comparison, eight of the bottom 10 states in turnout went to the other extreme by requiring voters to register a full four weeks in advance of the election. Underlining the policy’s strength is this finding: states with SDR enjoyed a seven percentage-point advantage over states without SDR, an advantage consistent with all prior national elections.

“Same-day voter registration has long been a priority of mine and it’s a game-changer for New Mexico’s voting and elections. It’s simply easier for New Mexicans to fit voting into their busy lives when they can register and vote on the same day, and now they can,” said New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver who helped champion the reform. “Anyone who’s concerned about including more eligible voters in our democracy and improving our overall elections should be proud that this bill is now law.” The New Mexico SDR policy, signed into law by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, will take affect in 2021.

However, to see how effective the policy is during a highly-anticipated election, you only need to look at Utah and how it fared during the historic turnout of the 2018 Midterms. As shown in “America Goes to the Polls,” Utah’s simultaneous state expansion of its SDR program to mail all registered voters their official ballot 2-3 weeks in advance resulted in the state experiencing the largest increase in voter turnout nationwide from 2014 to 2018.

“Same Day Registration, along with other policies proven to help voters participate and keep election rolls up-to-date, are essential to ensuring that more of our nation’s citizens can participate in the democratic process,” adds Miller. “As Congress seems locked in debate when it comes to election reforms, it’s good to see that states are taking the lead.”

To download America Goes to the Polls 2018, visit

Nonprofit VOTE partners with America’s nonprofits to help the people they serve participate and vote. See for more.


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