Just because we’re not voting for president doesn’t mean you should sit out Election Day

Just because we’re not voting for president doesn’t mean you should sit out Election Day
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When more people vote, democracy wins. When everyone’s voice is heard, election outcomes better reflect the will of the people. Unfortunately, millions of Americans are unable to vote each year because they are either not registered or haven't updated their voter registration.

Today, National Voter Registration Day, is a single day of action across the country to raise awareness of voter-registration opportunities and register as many eligible voters as possible. As secretaries of State from both sides of the aisle, we know the importance of being registered to vote and having every voice heard. We also know that voting and democracy are core American values that should always transcend party lines.

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One obstacle to greater participation in our democracy is voter confusion about registration. Laws and deadlines surrounding voter registration vary from state to state, county to county, and even city to city. Recognizing this challenge, the National Association of Secretaries of State helped create National Voter Registration Day to provide helpful information about the registration process to voters across the country. Before we can boost voter participation nationwide, we have to educate folks about how to register.

It is important to understand that voter registration is dynamic — it is always in a state of change. For example, if you were registered to vote in the last election, you need to update your voter information if you move, even if it’s only across town. According to U.S. Census and Department of Homeland Security data, at least 45 million people move across state lines, turn 18, or become new naturalized U.S. Citizens each year. That means there are 45 million people who need to register before they can vote. Together, a cornerstone of our work is educating new voters, including helping new citizens register at naturalization ceremonies.

We know that midterm elections affect our lives and our values, often more so than elections in a presidential year. In November, the American electorate will decide 435 seats in the United States House of Representatives, 35 seats in the United States Senate, 39 state and territorial governorships, and many more state and local offices. Just because we’re not voting for president doesn’t mean you should sit out.

According to a study from Pew, over 50 million eligible voters weren’t registered to vote or their registration was out of date. That’s a fourth of voting-age Americans who are unable to voice their opinions in the electoral process. American democracy will only reach its full potential when all eligible voices are heard.

We need every eligible citizen in the country to register because each and every American voice matters. With so many key races to be decided this year, every eligible American has an opportunity to make a real impact on who represents them nationally and locally. Voting is a cornerstone of our democratic system, and many people have fought hard to expand the right to every eligible American citizen. However, this system fails to fulfill its promise of “one person, one vote” when so many Americans are unable to vote because they’re not registered.

If we are to fulfill our shared vision of a healthy and vibrant representative democracy, we cannot afford for Americans to be left on the sidelines. Make today count by registering to vote or updating your registration.

The success of our democracy will depend on the people making their voices heard and their opinions known. Together, we call on all Americans to check their registration status, talk to their friends and families about registering to vote, and join our effort to register all eligible voters this National Voter Registration Day. American democracy depends on the voices of all citizens.

Alison Lundergan Grimes is Kentucky's 76th secretary of State and a member of the Democratic Party.

Kim Wyman is Washington’s 15th secretary of State and a member of the Republican Party.