June 29, 2020 12 minutes to read ∙ 2700 words

Voter Registration in Today’s Democracy: Barriers and Opportunities

By Terry Ao Minnis and Niyati Shah

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Reprinted with permission from Human Rights Magazine, Volume 45, Number 1, at 2-5. ©2020 by the American Bar Association. All rights reserved. This information or any or portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association.

Often when we hear about voting, the public discussion focuses on Election Day (or days in the case of early and absentee voting). However, an important component of the voting process occurs before the actual act of voting—voter registration. The requirement of registering to vote before being able to cast a ballot has been integral to how our democracy functions and provides both barriers and opportunities to voter participation, particularly for communities of color. For example, just slightly over half of eligible Asian Americans and Latinos were registered to vote in the last two federal elections, with a persistent disparity as compared to white voters of 15–20 percent less in voter registration and turnout.

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