, Salem, MA

July 24, 2008

Our view: Same-day voter registration a bad idea

With citizenship comes responsibility. Voting, the basic act of citizenship, requires minimal effort on the part of those who would exercise this hard-won franchise, purchased and defended with the blood of patriots. All society requires is that a citizen first register to vote, then show up at the polls.

But for some, this is too much to ask. They cannot be bothered to make any effort on their own to exercise their right to vote, a right that, in the context of the whole of human history, is precious and rare.

So those in Massachusetts who are ever-ready to cater to the slothful and indolent have a plan, one that increases the risk of fraudulent elections and puts an added financial burden on already overtaxed cities and towns. No matter the cost or risk, they argue, if it gets a few more people who don't really care to cast ballots on Election Day.

State Sen. Edward Augustus, D-Worcester, chairman of the Election Laws Committee, wants to ram through a same-day voter registration law in the waning days of the current session. The bill would require all precincts in Massachusetts to be equipped by 2010 to register voters on Election Day.

It's difficult to understand how registering to vote came to be considered such a burden. All that's required is a visit to the city or town clerk. It only needs to be done once, or when one moves. A person can also register to vote when renewing his or her driver's license.

Advocates of same-day registration are jeopardizing the security of elections and imposing costs on cities and towns in pursuit of a few percentage points of voter turnout.

Those who founded our nation intended that the people would be an active and informed electorate, citizens who studied and understood the matters at hand before they cast their ballots. Do we really want to be ruled by people who just don't care?