Iowa Weighs in on Election Day

Today Iowa Secretary of State Michael Mauro released his 2008 report, with good news for proponents of Election Day Registration.

February 4, 2009

state sealToday Iowa Secretary of State Michael Mauro released his 2008 report, with good news for proponents of Election Day Registration (EDR).

Iowa is one of eight states that allows people to register on Election Day. Data shows that EDR boosts turnout by 5–7 percentage points, reduces confusion (and the need for provisional ballots) when people try to vote but can't, and does not lead to any increase in reports of voter fraud or bureaucratic malfunction. Today's report supports those findings. Iowa had the 5th highest voter turnout in the nation in the November 08 election, and the only states with higher turnout all have EDR as well.

More than half of the 46,000 EDR voters were people who had recently moved from one county to another and had thus fallen off the voter rolls. In states without EDR, these people would not have been able to vote with a regular ballot.

Iowa has also taken steps to tighten rules on voter challenges. People can no longer anonymously challenge a voter's eligibility, and when they do challenge they must provide a specific reason.

According to the Secretary, these two actions together have led to a marked decrease in provisional ballots in Iowa—ballots that are counted only after further verification of a voters' eligibility (and often aren't counted at all). In 2008 there were only 4,752 provisional ballots cast in the presidential election, down from 14,661 in 2004.

The latest news and numbers from Iowa show how a few good rules can make elections much smoother and more inclusive. We should all take note.