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Solutions to Voting Barriers

Same-Day Registration

Throughout the United States, citizens must register in order to be eligible to vote. Generally, voters are required to register or update their registrations several days or weeks in advance of an election. Some states, however, permit same-day registration, which enables voters to register and vote at the same time. Same-day registration is sometimes referred to as Election Day registration.

As of October 2017, 15 states and the District of Columbia had implemented same-day registration provisions enabling voters to register and vote at the same time. Another three states had approved same-day registration provisions but had not yet implemented them. These states are identified below.

In those states that permit same-day registration, voters must generally provide proof of residency (e.g., utility bill, pay stub) and identity (e.g., driver’s license) at the time of registration.

States with Same-Day Registration

As of October 2017, the following states had enacted same-day registration provisions:

District of Columbia
New Hampshire


Hawaii approved same-day registration provisions but has not yet implemented them as of October 2017.


The Benefits of Same-Day Registration

Increases voter turnout. States that allow Same-Day Registration lead the nation in voter participation.

Eliminates registration deadlines that come before people become interested in the election. Many citizens become most interested and engaged in elections during the last few weeks before Election Day. For citizens that do become interested late, registration deadlines may have passed and their chance to vote is gone. For a state to close voter registration 25 to 30 days before an election, like some states do, is completely unnecessary.

Remedies inaccurate voter rolls. Many previously-registered voters can lose their eligibility for many reasons, such as moving somewhere outside of their previously registered voting location. If a citizen fails to discover any problems prior to Election Day or when the registration deadlines have passed, this would lead to eligible citizens losing their vote. With Same-Day Registration, these voters can simply update registration records or register at the polling place and their ballot will be counted.

Assists geographically mobile, lower-income citizens, young voters, and voters of color. If a citizen moves and fails to update their registration records, Same Day Registration allows them the opportunity to register and vote after their move. Research has shown that allowing young people to register to vote on Election Day could increase youth turnout in presidential elections by as much as 14 percentage points.1  Experts also predict that Same-Day Registration can be effective in increasing voter participation among voters of color.2 This prediction was based on a study done in North Carolina, where African American voters represented 20% of the voting-age population but were 36% of voters who used Same-Day Registration to vote in the 2008 presidential election. This was the first such election in North Carolina where Same-Day Registration was available.

Greatly reduces the need for provisional balloting. Provisional ballots are offered to citizens who believe they are registered but whose names do not appear on voter rolls. But more than one in four such ballots cast in the 2008 presidential election was subsequently rejected.4 Allowing eligible voters to register and vote on the same day greatly reduces the need for provisional ballots, helping to assure voters that their ballots will be counted, and saving elections officials the time and expense of processing many provisional votes.

Seeing all of the benefits of Same-Day Registration, it is time for Michigan to get on board and implement this option. Take action by clicking this link: https://secure.everyaction.com/Fn2jq-Ie0EaJC-udQt1ssw2


Mary Fitzgerald, Easier Voting Methods Boost Youth Turnout, The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) (Feb. 2003), http://www.civicyouth.org/PopUps/WorkingPapers/WP01Fitzgerald.pdf.
R. Michael Alvarez and Jonathan Nagler, Election Day Voter Registration in California, Demos (2011), http://www.demos.org/sites/default/files/publications/CA_EDR_Report-Demos.pdf; R. Michael Alvarez and Jonathan Nagler, Same Day Voter Registration in Maryland, Demos (2010), http://www.demos.org/sites/default/files/publications/SameDayRegistration_Maryland_Demos.pdf; R. Michael Alvarez and Jonathan Nagler, Election Day Voter Registration in Massachusetts, Dēmos (2008), http://www.demos.org/sites/default/files/publications/mass.pdf.
Democracy North Carolina, “2008 Recap: The Year of the Voter,” Feb. 19, 2009, https://democracync.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/WrapUpYearofVoterPR2008.pdf.
United States Election Assistance Commission, 2008 Election Administration and Voting Survey, https://www.eac.gov/documents/2010/6/7/2008-election-administration–voting-survey-report/.

Early Voting

Early voting permits citizens to cast ballots in person at a polling place prior to an election. In states that permit no-excuse early voting, a voter does not have to provide an excuse for being unable to vote on Election Day. States that do not permit no-excuse early voting may still permit some citizens to vote early through in-person absentee voting, which can be done by having a valid reason for doing so with proof.


As of November 2016, the following 34 states (plus the District of Columbia) permitted no-excuse early voting in some form:

     District of Columbia
     New Jersey
     New Mexico
     North Carolina
     North Dakota
     South Dakota
     West Virginia


States with in-person absentee voting

In some states, a voter may be able to vote early if he or she provides some reason for being unable to vote on Election Day. This practice is known as in-person absentee voting. As of November 2016, the following five states permitted in-person absentee voting:

      New York
      South Carolina


Note: The reasons a voter may give for voting in-person absentee vary significantly from state to state. For example, the South Carolina State Election Commission lists 16 separate criteria qualifying an individual to vote absentee. Meanwhile, the Missouri Secretary of State lists six. For more information, consult the relevant state election agency or local election official.

States without early voting or in-person absentee voting

As of November 2016, the following seven states did not permit early voting or in-person absentee voting:


      New Hampshire
      Rhode Island

States with all-mail voting

As of November 2016, the remaining three states (Colorado, Oregon, and Washington) used all-mail voting systems, thereby eliminating the need for early voting.

Michigan is one of 10 states that don’t allow some form of early voting. We have absentee voting, but this option is only available to voters who meet certain criteria

Absentee voting is only legally available to voters who meet certain criteria:

  • Age 60 years old or older

  • Appointed to work as an election inspector in a precinct outside of your precinct of residence.

  • Unable to vote without assistance at the polls

  • Expecting to be out of town on election day

  • In jail awaiting arraignment or trial

  • Unable to attend the polls due to religious reasons

Although Michigan is a no early voting state, there have been efforts made to allow early voting or no-reason absentee ballots. In January 2015 Senator Jim Ananich (D-Flint) introduced Senate Bill No. 60, which is a bill that would allow Michigan voters to cast their ballots up to 30 days before an election.

The Brennan Center for Justice conducted research on Early voting in order to identify its benefits and make policy recommendations that we can work towards having our government officials in Michigan take into consideration.

Key benefits of early in-person voting:

  • Reduced stress on the voting system on Election Day;

  • Shorter lines on Election Day;

  • Improved poll worker performance;

  • Early identification and correction of registration errors and voting system glitches; and

  • Greater access to voting and increased voter satisfaction.

Policy recommendations for early in-person voting:

  • Begin early in-person voting a full two weeks before Election Day;

  • Provide weekend voting, including the weekend before Election Day;

  • Set minimum daily hours for early voting and provide extended hours outside standard business hours;

  • Allow use of both private and public facilities;

  • Distribute early voting places fairly and equitably;

  • Update poll books daily; and

  • Educate the electorate about early voting.

Contact your Local Election Office to learn more about early voting in your area.

Additional Links:

Michigan Absentee Voting: http://www.michigan.gov/sos/0,4670,7-127-1633_8716_8728-21037–,00.html

Michigan Senate Bill No. 60: https://www.legislature.mi.gov/documents/2015-2016/billintroduced/Senate/pdf/2015-SIB-0060.pdf

Early Voting: What Works: http://www.brennancenter.org/sites/default/files/publications/VotingReport_Web.pdf

Discrimination at the Polls: Who to Contact

The Justice Department announced efforts to ensure that all qualified voters have the opportunity to cast their ballots and have their votes counted free of discrimination, intimidation or fraud in the election process.

Below are contacts available to put in a complaint related to possible violations of the federal voting rights laws:

Civil Rights Division Staff Members
Phone: 1-800-253-3931 
Email: voting.section@usdoj.gov 
Website: http://www.justice.gov/crt/votercomplaint



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