RELEASE: States Could Boost Low Voter Turnout by Millions With Key Policy Changes, CAP Report Says

Washington, D.C. — After historically low turnout during the 2016 elections and 2014 midterms, a new report from the Center for American Progress finds that states could encourage millions more eligible Americans to vote by adopting policies that increase voter turnout and make voting more convenient.

If adopted by every state, automatic voter registration (AVR), same-day voter registration, online voter registration and other policies, could add at least 22 million people to voter rolls—and likely millions more. These reforms and other pro-voter policies could cause about 7.9 million more people to turn out to vote.

That would be a huge gain. Approximately 92 million eligible Americans did not vote in the 2016 presidential election, and 143 million eligible people didn’t vote in the 2014 midterms.

Other helpful policies include preregistration for 16- and 17-year-olds; early voting; no-excuse absentee voting; restoring voting rights to ex-offenders; and using vote-at-home with voting centers, which provides voters flexibility and makes voting more convenient.

California, Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, Oregon, Utah 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.

With pro-voter policies, the millions of Americans missing from the political system—predominantly younger and lower-income individuals as well as people of color—can exercise their power at the polls, resulting in a more representative and responsive government that works for all Americans, the report found.

“Our democracy is strongest when more people participate,” said Gov. Jay Inslee (D-WA), whose state approved AVR earlier this year. “The Center for American Progress is right to be highlighting the ways that states can follow Washington’s lead in ensuring every community, every voice and every vote counts.”

CAP’s projections include:

  • Same-day voter registration in every state could have encouraged about 4.8 million more individuals to vote in 2016.
  • 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
  • Restoring voting rights to ex-offenders in all states could have boosted turnout by about 914,000 voters

Grassroots voter outreach has also been shown to be effective in increasing voter participation; if every eligible nonvoting American had been contacted by canvassers, there could have been approximately 6.2 million more voters during the 2016 elections.

These and other pro-voter policy reforms, paired with the elimination of voter suppression tools, can help solve the problem of low voter participation, the report found.

Read the report: “Increasing Voter Participation in America: Policies to Drive Participation and Make Voting More Convenient” by Danielle Root and Liz Kennedy.

For more information or to talk to an expert, please contact Sam Hananel at shananel@americanprogress.org or 202.478.6327.