Bipartisan Support for Voter Registration Modernization

November 13, 2015

The need to update our voter registration system has never been more pressing. We rely on a 19th Century approach for a 21st Century political process. Registration records are rife with errors, election officials are overwhelmed, and the integrity of our electoral process is compromised when every eligible voter is not given the opportunity to participate.

It should therefore come as no surprise that voter registration modernization, which increases the accuracy of our voter rolls and reduces taxpayer expense, has received acclaim across the political spectrum.

  • That same year, the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Commission on Political Reform, co-chaired by five former members of Congress, including the former U.S. Senate Majority Leaders Tom Daschle (D-South Dakota) and Trent Lott (R-Mississippi) identified online and electronic registration as having the potential to improve voter-registration record accuracy dramatically.
  • In Utah, then-Gov. Jon Huntsman created, and his successor, Gov. Gary Herbert, endorsed, a bipartisan Commission on Strengthening Democracy that recommended establishing online registration and eliminating registration deadlines to allow for registration on Election Day.

This support is not merely the product of bipartisan compromise—Republican elected officials and thought leaders have advanced these reforms and touted their strengths.

  • Republican-controlled legislatures in both reliably red states like Utah and Oklahoma, and swing states like Florida and Virginia, among others, have passed laws that GOP governors signed to modernize registration.
  • Republican Secretaries of State, who often bear chief responsibility for implementing these reforms, have also backed them. Ken Blackwell, the Republican former Secretary of State of Ohio, has advocated electronic and online registration, and endorsed the Committee to Modernize Voter Registration’s findings. And in September 2015, Nebraska unveiled its online registration system, which counted among its supporters not only the Republican Governor who signed it into law, but also the current Secretary of State, John Gale, a former chairman of the Nebraska Republican Party.
  • The Republican National Lawyers Association, co-chaired by Hon. Edwin Meese, U.S. Attorney General under President Reagan, and Robert Horn, who organized volunteer lawyers nationally in support of President George W. Bush’s presidential campaign in 2000, supports electronic registration and online voter registration.

Support for modernization efforts, especially automatic registration, is even greater among Democrats.

  • In May, former Speaker Nancy Pelosi—along with 178 other Democrats in the House—co-sponsored Rep. John Lewis’ bill to modernize voter registration through reforms including online registration and near-automatic registration. Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand have introduced legislation advancing other modernizing reforms.
  • Presidential candidates Clinton and Sanders support automatic registration, on which Sen. Sanders has introduced a bill authorizing the reform.
  • In the states, Oregon Democrats passed automatic registration in March. Before signing California’s automatic registration bill into law, Gov. Jerry Brown heard support from California’s Democratic Congressional Delegation among a wide array of influential thinkers, labor groups, environmental organizations, and think tanks.