Empowering People Over Special Interests
At Least 70% Voter Participation And Fair Legislative Districts
Policy Library

Automatic Voter Registration Makes Voting Easy and Secure

Voter registration in the United States is very low in comparison to other advanced democracies—and over a quarter of unregistered Americans say they want to be registered to vote. Automatic voter registration replaces outdated, paper-based voter registration to make sure that through cooperation with government agencies like the DMV, eligible voters are registered with current and accurate information. By modernizing the computer process for registration, automatic voter registration significantly cuts costs and secures voting systems against fraud.

The National Landscape

Passed in:

Alaska, California, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia

Introduced in:

Arizona (1234), Arkansas, Connecticut (12), Florida (12), Hawaii (12345), Idaho, Indiana, Iowa (1234), Kansas, Kentucky, Maine (123), Maryland, Michigan (1234), Minnesota (12345678), Missouri (123456), Mississippi (1234), Montana, North Carolina (1234), Nebraska, New Mexico (12), New Hampshire, New York (12345), Oklahoma (123), Pennsylvania, South Carolina (12), Tennessee (123456789), Texas (12345), Vermont, Virginia (12)

In The News

“Oregon has solved this problem. In 2015, the state implemented automatic voter registration… In total, 272,000 people were registered this way — and more than a third of them voted in 2016. Turnout in Oregon increased 4 percent from 2012 to 2016.”
The New York Times
Let the people vote
“At the state level, a wave of new governors and legislators will soon take office, and they can accomplish a lot. States that don't have automatic voter registration should adopt it.”

Partners

  • Voting rights advocates
  • Good government advocates
  • Anti-poverty organizations and advocates

Opposition

  • Interest groups that benefit from low voter participation
Call us for real-time support using this library, problem-solving tips, and follow-up from our team of national experts:
The State Line
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FAQ

What makes automatic voter registration automatic?
Automatic voter registration (AVR) is a modernization and expansion of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (or the Motor Voter Act). When an eligible voter interacts with the DMV or another state government agency, the default is for their voter registration to be updated; citizens have to opt-out of updating their registration.
How does automatic voter registration save money?
By switching to an electronic registration system, AVR reduces the amount of staff time needed for data entry. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, modernizing the registration system saved Arizona significant amounts of money. “Online registration cost Arizona less than $100,000, and automating DMV registrations cost only an additional $30,000. In Maricopa County, Arizona (which includes Phoenix), processing a paper voter registration form costs 83¢, compared to an average of 3¢ for applications received electronically from the DMV or through the online system. In 2008, Maricopa County saved data entry costs equivalent to the cost of eight full-time employees.”
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Model Policy

SECTION 1 (TITLE):
This act shall be known as the STATE Voter Registration Modernization Act..

SECTION 2 (PURPOSE):
This act amends the election law to help all citizens are registered to vote with current information when they interact with state agencies, modernizes voting systems, and allows voters to update their registration when they go to vote.

SECTION 3 (PROVISIONS):

(a) Registration agencies required to provide voter registration services by state law, shall conduct voter registration in a manner that is as efficient, comprehensive and as automated as practicable. Registration agencies shall transmit each completed affidavit of voter registration to the LOCALITY ELECTIONS BODY where the registrant resides. The HEAD STATE ELECTIONS OFFICIAL shall adopt regulations governing such transmission, which shall include, but not be limited to, provisions requiring electronic transmission, data security protocols and integration with the online portals established by state law. A registrant shall be deemed to be a registered voter at the time of completion of a signed affidavit at a registration agency or on the date that the affidavit of voter registration is postmarked or on the day that it is delivered by hand to the registrars.

(b) The HEAD STATE ELECTIONS OFFICIAL shall enter into cooperative agreements with additional agencies of state government that agree to function as registration agencies. Such agreements shall provide that the state secretary shall conduct appropriate training of agency staff, shall provide all forms, material and equipment necessary to carry out voter registration activities, and shall have oversight responsibility to ensure proper compliance with applicable provisions of federal and state law.

(c)
  • (1) For purposes of this section, the term “automatic voter registration agency” shall mean a location where eligible citizens may register as voters, including city or town clerk's offices, military recruitment offices, and offices of all state agencies that provide public assistance or assistance to people with disabilities, offices that provide state-funded programs primarily engaged in providing services to people with disabilities and any other state offices which the state secretary shall designate.

  • (2) The HEAD STATE ELECTIONS OFFICIAL shall determine that an agency collects “reliable citizenship information” if the agency, in the regular course of business for serving applicants:

  • (A) requests, in a clear, understandable and consistently stated manner, that customers affirm their citizenship status; and,
  • (B) collects a signed affirmation of citizenship status or documentary proof of citizenship status such that records of citizens are segregable from non-citizens.

(d)
  • (1) The HEAD STATE ELECTIONS OFFICIAL shall enter into memoranda of understanding with the department of motor vehicles and state health department to serve as automatic voter registration agencies. The state secretary may enter into memoranda of understanding with state agencies that collect reliable citizenship information for all applicants if the state secretary determines that enabling the agency to serve as an automatic voter registration agency will materially increase voter registration or the accuracy of the register of voters. Any such memorandum of understanding between the HEAD STATE ELECTIONS OFFICIAL and an automatic voter registration agency shall provide that the state secretary shall conduct appropriate training of agency staff, shall provide all forms, material and equipment necessary to carry out voter registration activities and shall have oversight responsibility to ensure proper compliance with applicable provisions of federal and state law; provided further, that any such memorandum of understanding shall specify that all trainings, forms and materials shall be funded by the state secretary. Registration agencies not designated as automatic voter registration agencies shall continue to provide voter registration services as required by state law.

  • (2) For each automatic voter registration agency, the state secretary shall:
  • (A) conduct appropriate training of agency staff;
  • (B) make available voter registration forms;
  • (C) specify all material, language, forms, and electronic interfaces necessary for the collection and transmission of the information needed to carry out activities under this section;
  • (D) eliminate to the extent practicable duplicative entries into the central voter registry; and
  • (E) have oversight responsibility to ensure proper compliance with applicable provisions of federal and state law.

(e) Automatic voter registration agencies shall:

  • (1) conduct automatic voter registration as specified by this act;

  • (2) work with the state secretary to implement this chapter and meet the goals of automatic voter registration enumerated in section 65; and

  • (3) enter into memoranda of understanding with the state secretary.

(f) Each eligible applicant for services at an automatic voter registration agency who meets the qualifications to register to vote and does not decline to do so shall be registered as a voter under state law as of the date the registrar adds the person’s name and address to the register of voters. Each automatic voter registration agency shall provide notice to each applicant:

  • (1) explaining that the agency application shall serve as an attestation to eligibility and an application to register to vote unless the person declines to be registered;

  • (2) informing the applicant of eligibility requirements to register to vote; and

  • (3) advising the applicant that non-citizens are ineligible to register, and they must decline unless they are US citizens and otherwise eligible.

(g) For each applicant that has not declined to be registered to vote, automatic voter registration agencies shall transmit electronic records containing the legal name, age, residence, citizenship information and electronic signature of each person who meets qualifications to register to vote as set forth by section 1, or to pre-register to vote as set forth in section 47A, as soon as practicable but within 5 calendar days after receipt of this information, to the board of registrars or election commission of the city or town in which the person resides in a manner prescribed by the state secretary. Automatic voter registration agencies shall not transmit records that contain: (i) a home address designated as confidential pursuant to section 8 of chapter 9A, or (ii) any record that does not clearly and consistently indicate that the applicant meets the eligibility requirements to vote.

(h) The HEAD STATE ELECTIONS OFFICIAL shall adopt regulations governing the collection and transmission of personal information under this subsection, which shall include, but not be limited to, provisions requiring automatic voter registration agencies to:

  • (1) employ the most cost-effective forms of transmission;

  • (2) implement measures to secure information such as encryption in order to prevent security breaches and the unauthorized use of personal information as required under state law;

  • (3) implement measures for reporting security breaches or the unauthorized use of personal information as required under state law;

  • (4) provide protections against disclosure of confidential information, including home addresses, designated as confidential pursuant to state law;

  • (5) make application forms available in English and Spanish, and such additional languages as the state secretary deems necessary or as required by law; and

  • (6) work with the HEAD STATE ELECTIONS OFFICIAL to insure, by public education and other methods, that information sufficient to understand the process for and consequences of automatic voter registration is available in any language that is the primary language of at least 10,000 or 1/2 of 1 per cent of all residents of the state.

(i) Nothing in this subsection shall prevent an automatic voter registration agency from establishing and enforcing additional security measures to protect the confidentiality and integrity of inter-agency data transfers.

(j) The HEAD STATE ELECTIONS OFFICIAL shall promulgate regulations relative to the administration of automatic voter registration, which shall be in addition to the regulations otherwise authorized by this chapter, and which shall include, but not be limited to, provisions relative to:

  • (1) promoting greater participation of eligible voters in elections;

  • (2) increasing the completeness and accuracy of the register of voters;

  • (3) preventing erroneous disenfranchisement of eligible citizens;

  • (4) protecting ineligible voters from improperly being registered;

  • (5) determining the extent to which automatic voter registration materials should be provided in languages other than English and Spanish, including, but not limited to, ensuring compliance with the Voting Rights Act;

  • (6) specifying the manner of registration for address confidentiality program participants under state law who interact with automatic voter registration agencies; and

  • (7) preventing voter registration fraud.

(k)
  • (1) Nothing in this act shall be construed to change the substantive qualifications of voters established by this chapter or the constitution.

  • (2) Nothing in this section shall be construed to interfere with the registrars’ duties under state law to ensure that the names of persons who are ineligible to vote do not appear on the register of voters.

  • (3) Nothing in this section shall be construed to interfere with the right of any person to decline to be a registered voter for any reason.

(l)
  • (1) Upon receiving the electronic records, the board of registrars or election commission shall determine whether the names of persons included in the electronic records belong to persons who meet the qualifications of a voter under state law. The registrars shall notify each qualified person whose name appears in those records of the automatic voter registration process.

  • (2) If the registrars determine that the person whose name appears in the electronic records does not meet the qualifications of a voter under state law, the registrars shall notify the person of the determination at the address included in the electronic record, unless that person has already declined to register to vote.

  • (3) The registrars shall notify each person under paragraph (1) of his or her opportunity to:
  • (i) decline being registered to vote; or

  • (ii) adopt a political party affiliation, in which case the person shall also sign an eligibility requirement acknowledgement and attestation. Such notification shall be provided in English and Spanish and any additional languages to be determined by the state secretary.

  • (4) If a person so notified does not decline to be registered to vote within 21 calendar days after the registrar issues the notification, the registrars shall add the person’s name and address to the register of voters.

  • (5) The registrars shall not include in the register of voters the names of persons who indicate in a signed writing that they do not wish to be registered voters.

  • (6) If the information transmitted is for a person whose name is already included in the register of voters, and if the information indicates a subsequent change to the person’s name, address or gender marker, the registrars shall ensure that the register of voters is updated accordingly.

  • (7) Upon adding the name of a person to the register of voters under paragraph (4), the registrars shall send written notice, which may be sent electronically, in a form approved by the state secretary, to the registrars or equivalent officers of the place where the person was last registered as a voter. Upon receiving this notice, or a similar notice from another state including information from the Electronic Registration Information Center under this act, the registrars shall immediately remove the person’s name from the register of voters.

(m) The HEAD STATE ELECTIONS OFFICIAL shall ensure that information is provided to the registrars in as clear a manner as practicable, and automate the process to the extent practicable. The HEAD STATE ELECTIONS OFFICIAL may develop electronic interfaces with automatic voter registration agencies to carry out this section.

(n) The HEAD STATE ELECTIONS OFFICIAL shall make an annual report to the joint committee on election laws of the general court, which the secretary shall post on a public website. The annual report shall include the following information: the number of voters newly registered to the statewide voter registration list updated by an automatic voter registration agency, broken down by agency; the total number of voter records on the statewide voter registration list updated because of records transferred by an automatic voter registration agency; and the number of persons who opted out of voter registration. Any report produced under this section shall exclude personal identifying information.

(o) Nothing in this section shall preclude a person who has previously declined voter registration from subsequently registering to vote.

(p) The HEAD STATE ELECTIONS OFFICIAL shall ensure that election officials shall not provide the record of any person who has opted out of voter registration, in whole or in part, to any third party and shall establish standards and procedures to safeguard the privacy and security of the information used and obtained pursuant to this section.

(q) Any person who is not eligible to vote and who becomes registered under this provision shall not be found on that basis to have made a false claim to citizenship or to have committed an act involving moral turpitude, unless such person affirmatively asserts that he or she is a citizen of the United States. Where a person who is not eligible to vote becomes registered under this provision without affirmatively accepting registration, that person’s voter registration shall be considered to have been effected with official authorization and at no fault of the person so registered.

(r) No person may use the statewide voter registration list to attempt to determine the citizenship status of any person for any purpose other than voter registration, election administration or the enforcement of laws against election crimes. No information relating to a person’s declination to supply information for voter registration purposes at a source may be disclosed to the public, used to discriminate against that person or used for any purpose other than voter registration, election administration or the enforcement of laws against election crimes.

(s) The state secretary shall implement upgrades to the central voter registry to implement this act, as necessary to ensure the central voter registry incorporates interfaces with the department of motor vehicles, state health agency, and other voter registration agencies, as determined by the HEAD STATE ELECTIONS OFFICIAL.