Policy Summary: In 2015 Oregon became the first state in the country to implement an automatic voter registration (AVR) system for its residents. California became the second U.S. state to implement an AVR system when it approved a law in October 2015. Over the next few years an additional seventeen states and the District of Columbia have passed laws that enacted AVR systems for their states.

An automatic voter registration system is one where an eligible voter must opt – out of voting. Under the old traditional system in place across the U.S., voters filled out paper voter registration forms and returned them to their local voting authority body. Under an AVR system, any eligible voter who interacts with a state or federal government agency for a non – voting purpose, such as applying for a driver’s license or identification card, will automatically be registered to vote in that state. There are differences across the states that have an AVR system but the person will be registered unless they affirmatively decline. In sixteen states, the person conducting a transaction with a state or federal agency can decline during their visit with the agency they are conducting business with while two other states give the person the option to decline a registration to vote via a paper mailer sent to the person who declines by mailing the paper back.

H.R. 1, popularly known as the “For The People Act of 2021” contains provisions that will require States to establish and operate automatic voter registration systems. H.R.1 was approved by the House of Representatives by a vote of 220 – 210. The bill now goes to the Senate where its approval is uncertain. LEARN MORE

Policy Analysis: Automatic voter registration systems (AVR) have begun gaining steam around the country. While Oregon and California led the way for the systems states from all regions of the country are following. Georgia in the South has approved it while Illinois in the Midwest, Colorado in the Rocky Mountain region, West Virginia in the Mid – Atlantic region and a number of states in the Northeast have implemented it. With its inclusion in the just approved H.R. 1 national voting rights bill, AVR systems has gained acceptance as a way to try and combat voter suppression tactics that were exposed in the run up to the 2020 presidential election.

Since the implementation of AVR in those states that use it, most states have seen an increase in voter registrations statewide. The system was so successful that former Vice President Al Gore gave an interview in which he supported the automatic registration of voters to help improve access to voting. Still, there is some opposition to AVR in many states. Some of the opposition to AVR have come with the same old and tired arguments of potential fraud. But subsequent analyses and reports on AVR systems have not shown any increase in fraud in states that use it. These accusations of fraud conveniently ignore the fact that the required electronic transmission of voter registration information can help to reduce the incidents of mistakes and delays that could occur with the processing of paper voter registration applications.

While the success of AVR systems is obvious in the rise of voter registrations in Oregon, California and other states, it is in the way that an AVR system is dependent on state and federal agencies that makes AVR an efficient and accurate way of registering voters. The system does not merely sign up anyone who has a name in a state or federal database. Only people who go to a state agency like a Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or other state social services agency as required in a few states will be automatically registered based on the personal information that they give to the agency. This information will then be electronically transmitted to the state elections board. This will increase efficiency in that the voter will not have to duplicate information on a separate paper form. And it will increase the accuracy of the state voter rolls because the information provided to the  state or federal agency will be the most up to date personal information of the person. And there will be a high degree of accuracy since a person will be deterred from giving false and inaccurate information to state and federal agencies because they know that agencies can now cross check personal information for discrepancies. And with AVR systems being opt – out instead of the traditional opt – in, a voter will still have the final say as to whether they want to be registered or not. It will no longer be a voter looking for a way to register and possibly being turned away because of some complication. A voter will have all his information set up and ready to go and all the voter has to do is say yes or no.

AVR has helped to simplify registering to vote and all states that have not done so should urge their Senators to approve H.R.1. And even if it does not pass in the Senate, states should move forward anyways and implement an automatic voter registration system. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE

Engagement Resources:

Brennan Center for Justice – non – profit group’s webpage on automatic voter registration systems.

National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) – group’s infopage containing info and details on automatic voter registration systems.

This brief was compiled by Rod Maggay. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this brief, please contact Rod@USResistnews.org.

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