Thursday Open Line

As if to prove there is nothing new under the sun, Massachusetts acted on this date in far-off 1801 to register voters. At that time, the franchise was limited to men — usually those of some property and local repute. Town assessors drew up publicly-posted lists of voters. If any voter was omitted, documents proving eligibility were accepted. The practice caught on very slowly. Only after the Civil War did voter registration become widespread. Today, North Dakota is the only state without a registration requirement. In 2010, out of a voting age population of nearly 230 million citizens, just over 65 percent were registered to vote. In Massachusetts, that percent was nearly 69. Profile America is in its 16th year as a public service of the U.S. Census Bureau.