Election Day

PBS Premiere: July 1, 2008Check the broadcast schedule »

Expert Roundtable: Changing the System

Eric Marshall

Eric Marshall

Campaign Manager, National Campaign for Fair Elections

Eric MarshallIf I had to pick one reform to improve the accuracy of, access to, and efficiency of the election system in this country, it would be a national Election Day Registration law. Election Day Registration (EDR), also known as "same-day registration," allows eligible voters to register and cast a ballot on election day. Far too often, Election Protection has seen eligible voters turned away at the polls because of problems with their registration. EDR would prevent this all-too-common type of disenfranchisement and open up access to the ballot box, especially for low-income, minority, youth and elderly voters.

Turnout numbers over the past few cycles prove the importance of EDR. A report by Demos ("Voters Win With Election Day Registration") showed that in the 2004 presidential race, EDR states had a 12- percentage-point higher average turnout than non-EDR states. The reason for this increase is simple: In states without EDR, voters with even the slightest problem with their registration and people who missed the registration deadline were unable to cast a ballot that counted or did not go to the polls at all. With EDR, students who live on campus and are motivated to vote for the first time in their new jurisdiction, low-income voters whose economic situation requires them to move often and who do not know the rules about changing their address, voters whose registration was not properly transferred by a social service agency, or voters who had their information entered incorrectly by an overworked election official-- all of them would be able to register and vote on election day. Unfortunately, in most states these voters, and millions of others with similar stories, are simply turned away or given a provisional ballot that goes uncounted.

The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, through its leadership of Election Protection, will continue to work to ensure that every eligible voter is able to cast a ballot that counts for their candidate of choice. A national Election Day Registration law would make our work a lot easier.

Eric Marshall is the campaign manager for the National Campaign for Fair Elections in the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law's Voting Rights Project. In his role as campaign manager, Marshall is the lead organizer for the Lawyers' Committee's leadership of Election Protection and is responsible for coordinating the National Campaign's nationwide network of volunteers, communications with field partners and the media and grassroots mobilization. He is a member of the National Network on State Election Reform. For more information about the Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, visit www.lawyerscommittee.org.