Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D) is likely to sign legislation allowing eligible citizens to register and vote on Election Day after the legislature passed the measure by a wide margin.
Anyone eligible to cast a ballot would be able to register on Election Day at early voting sites beginning in 2016, or at regular polling places starting in 2018. Scott Nago, the state’s chief elections officer, supported the bill in written testimony before the legislature.
Abercrombie has not said whether he will sign the bill, but Democrats expect him to do so.
Elections officials and Democrats who backed the bill said they hoped it would boost turnout in a state with the lowest participation rates in the country.
Just 44.2 percent of Hawaii’s voting-eligible population voted in the 2012 presidential contest, 14 points below the national average and two points below the next-lowest state, West Virginia, according to the United States Elections Project at George Mason University. Fewer than half of all voting-eligible persons turned out in Texas and Oklahoma, as well.
On the other end of the spectrum, more than 70 percent of the voting-eligible population turned out in Colorado, Minnesota, New Hampshire and Wisconsin — all states that allow same-day registration.
Hawaii would be the eleventh state to offer same-day voter registration. Maine, Minnesota and Wisconsin pioneered the process, enacting laws in 1973, 1974 and 1975, respectively. In the last two years, Connecticut, California and Colorado have made same-day registration available. The District of Columbia also allows eligible voters to sign up on Election Day.
Studies show states that allow same-day voter registration have higher turnout rates than states that don’t allow the practice. Iowa and North Carolina, which both implemented same-day registration in 2007, saw turnout jump between 2004 and 2008, according to Demos [pdf], a voting rights think tank. North Carolina subsequently ended same-day registration in 2013.