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North Star State Points the Way on Voting

October 18, 2002|Joan Anderson Growe | Joan Anderson Growe was Minnesota secretary of state from 1975 to 1999.

MINNEAPOLIS -- In 1974, the year I was elected Minnesota's secretary of state, my state was the first in the nation to implement election-day registration. Over 24 years in office, I supervised a registration process that consistently gave our state the highest voter turnout rate in the nation, with no increase in election fraud.

On Nov. 5, voters in California will decide on election-day voter registration. If Proposition 52 passes, California will join six other states that have made improving voter participation a top priority.

Twenty-eight years ago, we heard a lot of the same scare tactics Californians are hearing today about the possible perils of same-day registration. They didn't materialize. We've dealt with lines at the polls by increasing the numbers of election workers. Welcoming more voters at the polls is a "problem" we're happy to have.

In Minnesota, we have a few voter fraud cases every year, but no more than we did before the election reform was put in place. California's Proposition 52 actually increases election security by raising fines for fraud and making conspiracy to commit election fraud a crime. The measure also requires last-minute voters to present valid identification and proof of residency, something that is not currently required.

But the real reason California voters should say yes to election-day registration is that it will increase turnout. In the six states that now allow same-day registration, voter turnout has increased by as much as 6%. California, with a high percentage of voters who are young and highly mobile, can expect an even greater increase.

With a two-step registration process, young voters too often don't make the effort. We need to do everything we can to get these young people invested in our democracy and involved in our communities. Research shows that voters are more likely to volunteer with schools and civic groups.

After years of proven success, election-day registration is simply not an issue in Minnesota anymore, except when someone criticizes it. Politicians and citizens from all parties -- and those who are independent of any affiliation -- are proud of Minnesota's pioneering role in election reform and even prouder of our first-place finish in voter participation.

California doesn't have to be afraid of same-day voter registration. Election experts predict that the reform would bring nearly 2 million more voters to the polls. That can only be good for our democracy and good for California.

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