Members of Congress Introduce Legislation to Modernize Voter Registration
Washington, D.C. – Leading members of Congress introduced the Automatic Voter Registration Act of 2017 this week, a transformative bill that could add 50 million eligible new voters to the rolls. The lawmakers are scheduled to join the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law and other leading voter advocacy organizations to discuss the proposal during a Capitol Hill briefing Wednesday afternoon.
The initiative, led by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Representative Robert Brady (D-Pa.), would improve the efficiency, accuracy, cost and security of voter registration processes. It comes as momentum for these reforms continues to grow at the state level.
Under the plan, when a citizen interacts with a government agency — for example, to get a driver’s license, apply for public services, register for classes at a public university, or become a naturalized citizen — they are automatically signed up to vote, unless they decline. An individual’s information is electronically transferred to election officials, increasing convenience for voters and the accuracy of information in state databases.
Eight states and the District of Columbia have approved automatic voter registration recently, several with bipartisan support. Late last month the Illinois Legislature passed the reform unanimously in both chambers. Oregon was the first state to fully implement the plan last year, successfully expanding its number of registered voters.
The Automatic Voter Registration Act of 2017, introduced in the House Monday and the Senate today, provides guidance for state agencies that would contribute to the modernization efforts and makes clear that it is the government’s job to ensure that every eligible citizen in the United States has straightforward opportunities to register to vote.
“It is more important than ever that Congress work to strengthen our democracy,” said Rep. Robert Brady. “The Automatic Voter Registration Act of 2017 would do exactly that by registering millions of eligible voters, improving election security, building a more representative electorate, and increasing voter turnout.”
“Voting is a foundational right,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy. “America is stronger when more Americans participate in our democracy. We are better when our citizens take part in the political process, hold their elected representatives accountable, and voice their opinions on the critical issues facing our country. We can take a significant step toward fostering greater participation simply by modernizing the way Americans register to vote through nationwide automatic voter registration.”
“Automatic voter registration has made huge advances recently at the state level, and it’s time to bring the reform to the national level,” said Wendy Weiser, the director of the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program. “It reduces mistakes on the rolls, enhances security, and expands access to the ballot box for millions of eligible voters, all while bringing our election infrastructure into the 21st Century.”
“Congressional leadership is extremely important in efforts to expand access to this fundamental right in our democracy,” said Nicole Austin-Hillery, director and counsel of the Brennan Center’s Washington, D.C, office. “Thank you to Senator Leahy and Representative Brady for their work and support of this needed reform.”
“We should make it easier, not more difficult, for every eligible citizen to vote,” said Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “Automatic voter registration is the wave of the future, and it is gaining momentum in states across America, but national legislation is needed to help all voters. If every eligible citizen was automatically and securely registered to vote, it would strengthen our democracy. We applaud Congressman Brady and Senators Leahy, Klobuchar, and Durbin for prioritizing voting rights and fighting back against efforts to block access to the ballot box.”
“The League of Women Voters strongly supports modernizing voter registration,” said Lloyd Leonard, senior director of advocacy for the League of Women Voters. “Enhanced access, better accuracy and reduced costs – this is what the Automatic Voter Registration bill is all about. It is time for voter registration to move into the 21st Century with modern technologies.”
“Strengthening democracy requires taking bold action to make it easier for Americans to participate in elections. While the current administration has promoted a false narrative of widespread vote fraud, a handful of states are leading the way in ensuring that all eligible voters can participate through automatic voter registration,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “Now it is up to Congress to act. The Automatic Voter Registration Act would make it easier for citizens in all states to register to vote and ignite voter participation rates across our country. At a time when voting rights are under attack, passing this common sense legislation is one step that Congress can take to restore faith in our democracy and inspire citizens to engage in the electoral process.”
Learn more about automatic voter registration, and the Brennan Center’s work on voter registration modernization.
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For more information on this afternoon’s briefing on Capitol Hill, or to RSVP, click here. If you plan to attend, please leave ample time to get through security. Our thoughts and prayers are with members and staff affected by this morning’s tragic shooting.