simple, accurate, inclusive

Automatic Voter Registration

What is wrong with the way we register people to vote?

Millions of Americans are prevented from performing their most American right, the right to vote, mainly because of an outdated and error-prone voter registration system.  Names are deleted from the voter rolls for many reasons, sometimes in error and sometimes maliciously by partisan state governments in order to prevent certain groups of voters from voting.

While it is up to citizens to actually get out and vote (or mail in their vote in certain states), government can certainly help by removing barriers and making the process as simple and secure as possible.

What is automatic voter registration?

It involves two changes to voter registration:

  • Eligible citizens who interact with government agencies (like when you register your vehicle with the DMV) are registered to vote automatically.  Citizens can decline, but the default is to be registered.

  • New and updated registrations are sent to election officials electronically.


How will this help?

These simple changes can have a massive impact across the nation.  These reforms will add up to 50 million eligible voters to the voter rolls, and they will be permanently registered.  Secondly, the registration information will be more accurate, remaining up to date.  It is a simple, convenient, and far less error-prone system.

Our current way of registering voters is an opt-in method, where someone has to specifically do something in order to be registered to vote.  But these reforms turn it into an opt-out system, making it easy for every eligible American voter to exercise their civic duty.  It will make America a better democracy.

Who can make these changes?

Voter registration is enacted at the state level.  The good news is that several states have already passed Automatic Voter Registration laws, including California, Oregon, Vermont, Alaska, and West Virginia.  Other states have passed bills in their legislatures only to have them vetoed by the governor (New Jersey and Illinois in 2016, for example).

Political Reform suggests you contact your state representatives and write letters to the editor in support of Automatic Voter Registration.

Much of this information came from the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law.  For more in-depth analysis, go to: