Same Day Voter Registration in North Carolina

Jonathan Nagler
R. Michael Alvarez

We have analyzed the likely impact on voter turnout should North Carolina adopt same day registration. Under the system proposed in North Carolina, eligible voters who miss the 25 day registration deadline may take advantage of same day registration during a period that lasts 19 days to three days prior to the election. During this time, voters may go to designated locations, and with the appropriate documentation, both register and vote. Since no state uses a system exactly like the one proposed in North Carolina, we estimated the impact of adopting Election Day Registration (EDR) to simulate the impact of same day registration in North Carolina. While our results must be interpreted carefully, we believe that they represent faithful estimates of the proposed reform. Availability of same day registration procedures similar to traditional Election Day Registration procedures should give voters who have not previously registered the opportunity to vote. Since North Carolina currently has one of the most restrictive registration requirements in the nation, requiring registration 25 days prior to Election Day, we may in fact be underestimating the impact of the proposed reform.

Consistent with existing research on the impact of EDR in other circumstances, we found that SDR would likely lead to substantial increases in voter turnout. We offer the following estimates of increases in turnout for North Carolina, and for specific groups of North Carolinians under SDR:

  • Overall turnout could go up by 5.4 percent.
  • Turnout among those aged 18 to 25 could increase by 10.8 percent.
  • Turnout for those who have moved in the last six months could increase by 9 percent.
  • Turnout for African Americans could increase by 5.9 percent
  • Turnout among the poorest citizens could increase by 6 percent, while turnout among the wealthiest citizens would likely increase by only 3.2 percent.
Date Published: 
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