Constitutional Standards Applicable to Voter Registration Closing Dates

Judicial pronouncements during the last decade on the relationship between the state, the voter, and the Federal Constitution have circumscribed the power states formerly enjoyed to impose restrictions on availability of the franchise. Nevertheless, all states but one maintain voter registration systems, one element of which is a closing date which cuts off registration at a stipulated point in time prior to election day. While in a statistical sense large scale de facto disfranchisement results from the use of closing dates, a distinct issue is presented as to whether this disfranchisement is of a type that is proscribed by the Federal Constitution. This article considers the nature and extent of disfranchisement that results from closing dates, the constitutional restrictions and standards that apply, and possible judicial and legislative solutions to this problem.