Kansas had 67 percent voter turnout in the 2016 election, but the state could encourage hundreds of thousands more eligible Americans to come to the polls by adopting new policies to reduce barriers and make voting more convenient, according to a report from the Center for American Progress released this week.
The state could see more than 69,000 new voters just by adopting automatic voter registration (AVR), CAP’s analysis found. And thousands more could participate in elections if Kansas approved same-day registration, pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds and restored voting rights to ex-offenders.
Ahead of this November’s mid-term elections, the report examines the problem of low voter participation in America, including structural barriers that keep Americans from having their voices heard. Overall, 92 million eligible Americans did not vote in the 2016 elections and 143 million eligible people didn’t vote in the 2014 mid-terms.
Of the policies considered in the report, Kansas offers online voter registration, no-excuse absentee voting, and early voting. By adopting other pro-voter policies in addition to automatic voter registration, Kansas could significantly increase voter participation. For example, more than 61,000 additional people could have voted in 2016 in Kansas if the state offered same-day voter registration. The report recommends that Kansas adopt AVR, SDR, pre-registration of 16 and/or 17-year-olds, and automatically restoring rights to formerly incarcerated people upon release from prison. It also suggests that Kansas consider the feasibility of using vote at home with voting centers, which provides voters flexibility and can make voting more convenient.
Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, Utah, California, Oregon and Washington are among the best states when it comes to adopting policies that help turn out more voters. States with the fewest voter-friendly policies include Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri, South Carolina, South Dakota, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Texas.
Other projections in the report:
Restoring voting rights to ex-offenders in all 50 states would have led to more than 914,000 additional voters in 2016, including more than 2,600 in Kansas
An additional 4.8 million people could have voted in 2016 if all states offered same-day voter registration
Online voter registration systems in every state could have boosted 2016 election turnout nationwide by 536,000 voters
Early voting procedures in all states could have increased 2016 turnout by 789,500 voters.
These and other pro-voter policy reforms, and elimination of voter suppression tools, can help solve the problem of low voter participation. With a pro-voter system, the millions of Americans missing from our political system can exercise their power at the polls, resulting in a more representative and responsive government that works for all Americans. For example, the report finds that implementing AVR in all 50 states could result in more than 22 million newly registered Americans in just the first year.
Read the report: “Increasing Voter Participation in America: Policies to Drive Participation and make Voting more Convenient,” by Danielle Root and Liz Kennedy.