Governor Peter Shumlin signed S.29 – the Election Day registration bill – into law today, at a ceremony at the Montpelier City Hall.
This law makes Vermont the 14th state to enact Election Day registration – joining a group that includes Vermont neighbors Maine and New Hampshire.
Beginning in 2017, all eligible Vermonters will be able to register to vote on Election Day. Under the previous law, any Vermonter who wanted to vote on Election Day had to be registered by the previous Wednesday.
Governor Shumlin recognized the years of work VPIRG put into this bill’s passage, calling attention to the group of VPIRG canvassers in attendance.
“We have to give it up for the VPIRG canvassers,” Shumlin said. “This wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for VPIRG, like so many other great things in Vermont.”
He also recognized VPIRG Democracy Advocate Julia Michel, who played a critical role in getting S.29 approved in both the House and Senate this session.
“There’s no one who worked harder on this bill and for this bill than Julia Michel,” Shumlin said.
Michel took a few moments to address the crowd of bill-supporters and assembled media. She noted VPIRG’s decade-long work on this issue, explaining that the continued efforts to pass this bill came from a very simple belief: Democracy works best when more people participate.
“By allowing its citizens to register to vote on Election Day, Vermont is about to remove one of the last institutional barriers to voting,” Michel said. “That’s something we can all celebrate.”
Experts have estimated Election Day registration can increase voter participation by anywhere from three to six percentage points – and possibly even more.
Michel said this was great day for anybody who cares about democracy.
“If you like the idea of more people participating in our democracy, then you’ll love this law.”