Thanks to Upper Midwest Democratic Members of Congress Russ Feingold, Amy Klobuchar and Keith Ellison for introducing legislation in the House and Senate for same-day voter registration in federal elections.
This news article from the Dickinson Press out of North Dakota has the skinny.
The idea that citizens who want to vote are told by the government that they are not permitted to do so is appalling. And it happens every election.
Same-day voter registration puts more of the burden on the government -- as it should be -- to make sure that every citizen who wants to vote has an opportunity to do so.
Of course, Congress only has the authority to require same-day voter registration for federal elections, as the Constitution gives the authority to states to run their own elections any way they want.
But just like the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (usually called "motor-voter") that required federal voter registration forms in drivers' license facilities and public welfare offices where government officials regularly interact with citizens, these bills are also the right step led by Congress that most states will probably choose to follow for their state and local elections as well. Only a few states (notably Illinois under then-Governor Jim Edgar) petulantly ran two systems of voter registration, one for federal elections to comply with the NVRA and one for state and local elections. Now the entire nation largely follows the NVRA for state elections as well.
This is real progress and I predict and hope that with President Obama (a guy who got his start in politics with a huge 1992 voter registration drive in Chicago) and a Democratic Congress, the bill will be enacted into law in 2009, effective for the 2010 federal elections.