"Connecticut is not trying to set a precedent," added Malloy. "There are six states that allow it -- Maine, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Idaho and New Hampshire. And in each of those states, voter turnout is about 10 to 12 percentage points higher than the national average. If we're going to make government work for all the people, we need to make it easier for people to participate in our democracy -- and that begins at the voting booth." (Malloy press release, 12/22/05)
The General Assembly passed same-day registration in 2003, but the measure was vetoed by Gov. Rowland. Malloy says that the possibility of voter fraud that prompted Rowland to veto the bill have been largely resolved by the state's computerized voter registration database.
Same-day registration is a good idea and will hopefully help boost voter participation, which was a dismal 37% for the latest round of municipal elections. However, we're still treating the symptom, not the disease. I hate to say it, but we're not going to see a major turnaround in voter turnout until something in our culture shifts and people feel the power of the franchise again.
Right now, a significant portion of people don't believe that voting makes any sort of difference whatsoever. Same-day registration may help some of these people who decide, at the last minute, that they'd like to vote after all. But what about the people who never even think of going to the polls? How do we reach them?
I often hear a lot of talk about empowering people and reaching out to nonvoters. These initiatives may be slightly successful, but the bare fact of the matter is that people won't vote unless they think there's a good reason to. If people believe they have something to vote for, then vote they will. Last year, national turnout was around 60%, the highest it's been since 1968.
Malloy is right, we should have same-day registration. This will help those nonvoters who show up at the polls next year. But can he provide the vision and leadership necessary to draw them out in the first place?