Voter registration requires that a person eligible to vote registers on an electoral roll before that person is entitled or permitted to vote. Voter registration may be automatic or may require each eligible person to submit an application. Registration varies between jurisdictions. Voter registration and participation are crucial for the nation’s democracy to function properly and for the U.S. government to provide fair representation.
About 66.8% of U.S. citizens 18 and older voted in the 2020 presidential election, the highest voter turnout of the 21st century. Despite COVID-19 concerns, 158.4 million people voted in the election. This is a significant improvement from the 2016 presidential election, where 139 million people voted, and almost 92 million eligible Americans did not vote. Moreover, in the 2020 election, voter turnout increased in every state compared to 2016.
According to the Census Bureau, voter registration and turnout are also affected by race, age, educational attainment, and other factors. Some pro-voter policies that have shown to increase voter registration and participation are: automatic voter registration., same-day voter registration, preregistration, online registration, early voting, no-excuse absentee voting and vote-by-mail, and restoring rights for formerly incarcerated people. According to the Pew Research Center, seven of the ten states that saw the largest increase in voter turnout conducted the 2020 election mostly or entirely by mail.
What States Have the Highest and Lowest Voter Registration?
While California has the highest number of registered voters at 18,001,000, the state has the lowest percentage of registered voters compared to its total population. Registered voters in California make up 59.3% of its total population. The District of Columbia has the highest percentage of registered voters of 80.5% (464,000) registered voters. Minnesota follows with 79.2%. Including D.C. and Minnesota, eight states have voter registration above 75%. The others are Mississippi, Oregon, Montana, New Hampshire, and Maine.
North Dakota is the only U.S. state that does not require voter registration for federal or state elections. However, voter registration is required for some city elections. Voters must provide ID and proof of entitlement to vote at the polling place in order to vote.