In a nutshell
- To vote on November 6, Michigan citizens had to be registered to vote by October 9, 30 days prior to election day
- Many states allow their citizens to register to vote closer to, including on, Election Day
- Proposal 3 would lengthen Michigan’s current voter registration deadline
Election day is still weeks away on November 6, but Michigan residents must be registered to vote well in advance of that. In fact, Tuesday, October 9 was the last day to register to vote for Michigan’s next governor, attorney general, secretary of state, and many other federal, state, and local offices, not to mention three statewide ballot questions. One of these, Proposal 3, would lengthen the voter registration deadline, bringing it in line with many other states.
States are required by federal law to set voter registration deadlines no more than 30 days before an election. Within the federal limit, states may have different deadlines for in-person, mail-in, and online voter registrations. Many states have registration deadlines much closer to Election Day (8 to 15 days is common). Others are taking steps to lengthen deadlines, in addition to adding online registration options, to provide citizens with additional time to register and making the process more convenient.
Michigan is not one of them. State law sets a 30-day deadline if registering in-person or by mail. Michigan is one of 16 states that does not allow online voter registration, although a package of bills to allow online registration is on its way to the governor’s desk.
Among other reforms, Proposal 3 would extend Michigan’s 30-day registration deadline for both in-person and mail-in methods to 15 days before an election. More significantly, the proposal would allow citizens to register to vote in person any time up to Election Day, with proof of residency. This change would effectively allow same-day voter registration. Seventeen states plus the District of Columbia currently have same day/Election Day registration.
Our research of Proposal 3 revealed a number of benefits associated with shortening the voter registration deadlines. Same-day registration removes the traditional two-step process to voting (the intentional act of registering and the actual act of voting), effectively making voting more convenient. Additionally, citizens are able to fully participate in all aspects of the voting franchise at the time they are most aware of an election. Beyond convenience, same-day registration has shown to increase voter turnout between three and seven percent.
Opposition to changing voter registration deadlines, or making any aspect of the voting franchise more accessible and convenient for citizens, often hinges on security or fraud concerns. Secure and fair elections are integral to our democracy and government officials have a duty and the responsibility to ensure the integrity of elections. However, research suggests that rumors of widespread voter fraud are baseless. Still, they remain obstacles to election modernization efforts across the states.
Michigan citizens face a general election in just a few weeks with predictions for record turnout. Increased voter participation will not be the product of changes made to modernize Michigan voting processes, but rather other factors. Proposal 3, if approved, seeks to bring to Michigan a number of voting reforms adopted in other states, including lengthening registration deadlines, while protecting the security of the voting franchise.