Same-day registration ‘is’ the next step for Delaware

Republican legislators in Delaware and Washington, D.C., alike have always been proponents of deregulating government. Freedom is the central idea to many of their ideologies as well as their proposed legislation. Yet, when it comes to same-day registration they wish to keep current regulations that would limit access.

They claim to favor expanding access to polls, but Delaware Republican legislators have voted against doing just that time and time again. They voted against House Bill 20, which would have eliminated limitation to absentee voting and expand eligibility for absentee ballots to all Delaware voters.

Why? Because it “had the potential to lead to voter fraud.”

Delaware’s Republicans are at it again with HB 105. The bill is sponsored by Rep. John Viola, D-Newark, and Sen. Margaret Rose Henry, D-Wilmington East, and would allow for same-day registration in Delaware. If passed, the legislation would give Delawareans the voting access they deserve.

The bill has faced criticism from Republican legislators in Dover. Their claim is it would increase voter fraud and negatively impact the integrity of our elections. Sound familiar?

The truth is Republican leaders in Delaware and nationwide have failed to produce any evidence (other than anecdotal) supporting their unfounded fear of widespread voter fraud. According to a Department of Justice study, between 2002 and 2005, only 40 voters nationwide were indicted for voter fraud. Of those, only 26, or about .00000013 percent of the total votes cast during that timespan, resulted in convictions or guilty pleas.

In 2008, Republicans in Minnesota claimed that voter fraud was to blame for Al Franken’s election to the Senate. However, research from Citizens for Election Integrity Minnesota concluded that only .0009 percent of voters in that election were convicted of voter fraud. Delaware has no history of voter fraud.

Furthermore, same-day registration will actually reduce work for officials. Casting same-day registration ballots as regular ballots, will ease administrative processes by eliminating paper provisional ballots.

Claims of voter fraud and negative impacts on election integrity are simply scare tactics put forth by Republican legislators in order to avoid discussing the real reasons they are in opposition of HB 105.

They fail to discuss when we limit voter access, it disproportionately affects specific groups of traditionally underserved Americans. These voters are racial minorities, students, the elderly, and people with disabilities.

States that have passed legislation allowing for same-day registration have noticed an increase in their voter turnout. Their voter turnout averages 10-12 percentage points higher than states without it and does not restrict any group of Americans.

President Obama said it best, “the real voter fraud is people who try to deny our rights by making bogus arguments about voter fraud.” Republicans in Dover don’t want everyone to vote. They want to work for and support only those voters who will vote Republican. It is our job to give Delawareans every opportunity to vote possible, regardless of their political affiliations.

It is in our best interest to give all parties better access to primary and general elections. We cannot allow voter suppression to persist. Same-day registration will allow all voters to cast their vote, and will prevent people from being turned away from the polls. The goal should not be to create further burdens to voters, but to promote and help Delawareans exercise their most fundamental right as Americans.

Freedom of speech is a constitutionally protected right for all Americans. Isn’t our vote our most sacred expression of speech, and shouldn’t we do everything we can to encourage and support every voice being heard?

John D. Daniello