Portable voter registration, or portability, removes a barrier to voting by making it easier for citizens to vote after they change addresses. In states with portability, registered voters’ records move with them as they move, as long as the move is within the same state. This is most commonly accomplished in two ways: portable registration and same-day registration. Same-day registration allows voters to register—or update their registration—and cast a ballot on Election Day. Portable registration is effectively an extension of same-day registration, as the administration process is very similar. States with portable registration merely allow voters already registered in the state to update their address at the point of voting.

Providing portability has significant benefits for voting access. Same-day registration—first implemented in Maine, Minnesota, and Wisconsin in the mid-1970s—is linked to higher voter participation: States with a same-day registration option have average voter turnout rates 10 points higher than those that do not. Furthermore, providing portable voter registration is one way to help voters most affected by stricter registration and ballot requirements—minority voters, young voters, and mobile populations—as it provides the best, most convenient opportunity to maintain an accurate and up-to-date voter registration status. In North Carolina in 2008, for example, African American voters, who represented 20 percent of the state’s voting-age population, comprised 36 percent of those who took advantage of same-day registration in the first year it was offered.

Thirty states do not have any form of portable voter registration. Among those that do, 10 states and the District of Columbia have implemented or passed a law allowing for same-day registration, five have portable registration, and four have some combination of both.

For a more detailed explanation of each factor, including citations, please download the full report.

Click to view scoring methodology
  1. Current Policy in State
    Points added to score
  2. State law voter registration system follows the voter so that a voter can easily vote after a change of address OR State law allows voters to change their addresses at the point of voting, such as at the ballot box
    0 points
  3. State law voter registration system does not follow the voter OR state law does not allow voters to change their addresses at the point of voting
    10 points
Policy Recommendation for This Factor
Provide same-day voter registration

Same-day registration creates a portable option for voters who have moved but not reregistered, and states with same-day registration available “consistently lead the nation in voter participation.” Additionally, same-day registration leads to a reduction in provisional ballot usage—and its racially discriminatory effects—as voters have the opportunity to update their registration status rather than vote provisionally. States that do not currently offer same-day registration or other policies to achieve portable registration should create this option.

Click here to see a full list of policy recommendations to improve the health of state democracies based on the findings of this report.

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Press Contact: Benton Strong at Bstrong@americanprogressaction.org 202-481-8142

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