Automatic Voter Registration

Nine states and the District of Columbia have already approved automatic voter registration, and 32 states have introduced automatic registration proposals this year.

December 4, 2017

Automatic voter registration, a new reform that will modernize voter registration and dramatically increase registration rates, is gaining momentum around the country. Nine states and the District of Columbia have already approved the policy. So far in 2017, 32 states have introduced legislation to implement or expand automatic registration (and one more state has an AVR bill that carried over from 2016). A full breakdown of these bills, as well as those introduced in 2015 and 2016, is available below.

Automatic voter registration makes two transformative, yet simple, changes to voter registration: Eligible citizens who interact with government agencies are registered to vote unless they decline, and agencies transfer voter registration information electronically to election officials. These two changes create a seamless process that is more convenient and less error-prone for both voters and government officials. This policy boosts registration rates, cleans up the rolls, makes voting more convenient, and reduces the potential for voter fraud, all while lowering costs.

In March 2015, Oregon became the first to pass a breakthrough law to automatically register eligible citizens who have driver’s licenses (except those who decline). The state has already seen significant registration increases since implementing the policy in January 2016. California — with its estimated 6.6 million eligible but unregistered voters — was the next to pass automatic registration, adopting the policy in October 2015.

2016 was the biggest year yet for automatic registration. The West Virginia and Vermont legislatures passed automatic voter registration with strong bipartisan support, and both bills were promptly signed into law in April. Georgia began implementing an administratively-approved policy in the fall, and on November 1, the District of Columbia Council unanimously passed automatic registration legislation that the mayor signed the following month. The Illinois and New Jersey legislatures also approved automatic registration in 2016, but both bills were vetoed.

On November 8, 2016, Alaska voters directly approved the policy. Alaskans passed a ballot measure to institute automatic voter registration through the state’s Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD), a sum paid by the state to all eligible residents. Eligible citizens are automatically registered to vote or have their existing registration information updated when they complete their annual PFD application, unless they decline. 

Momentum for automatic registration has carried into 2017. Colorado approved the policy administratively and began implementing it at DMV offices this year. The Nevada legislature passed an automatic voter registration bill in March, but Gov. Brian Sandoval vetoed it. Since the bill was originally introduced in the legislature through a citizen petition, it will now appear on the state’s 2018 general election ballot. 

In July, Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo signed an automatic registration bill that the legislature had passed with substantial bipartisan support. The state’s unique approach requires that the reform be implemented at the DMV, but will expand to other state agencies when they have met standards to ensure they can verify voter eligibility requirements.

Illinois became the latest state to approve automatic registration in August, when Gov. Bruce Rauner — who vetoed a separate automatic registration bill last year — signed a bill that the legislature passed unanimously. Like Rhode Island’s reform, Illinois’ policy creates a framework for expanding automatic registration to state agencies beyond the DMV.

 

Automatic registration has also garnered attention at the national level. In February 2016, outgoing President Barack Obama called on legislators to “mak[e] automatic voter registration the new norm across America.” In June 2017, Rep. Robert Brady introduced a bill to automatically register eligible citizens to vote in federal elections when they interact with numerous state and federal government agencies; Sens. Patrick Leahy, Amy Klobuchar, and Dick Durbin cosponsored identical legislation in the Senate. This group of lawmakers had also introduced an automatic registration bill during the previous legislative session. 

For more information on why states should implement automatic voter registration, see The Case for Automatic Voter Registration. This report urges adoption of the four components of a permanent registration system, with automatic registration as its central plank. For in-depth answers describing how states can use existing technology to implement automatic registration, see Automatic and Permanent Voter Registration: How it Works.

2017 Automatic Voter Registration Bills Introduced

Location

Bill Number

United States US H.R. 2876; US S. 1353
Alabama  AL HB 79; AL SB 161
Arizona AZ HB 2348AZ SB 1219
Arkansas AR HB 1004
Connecticut CT HB 5956CT HB 6579CT HB 6867
Delaware DE HB 79
Florida  FL S 72
Georgia  GA HB 20GA SB 36GA HB 180 (AVR already approved administratively)
Hawaii HI HB 245HI HB 439HI HB 1188HI HB 1652HI SB 206HI SB 246HI SB 302HI SB 811
Illinois  IL HB 626; IL HB 3182; IL HB 3695; IL SB 1933 (Signed by the governor on August 28, 2017)
Indiana IN HB 1178*; IN SB 257
Iowa IA HF 194IA HF 247; IA SF 65IA SF 381
Maine ME LD 1232
Maryland MD HB 741; MD SB 938
Massachusetts MA H 2091; MA S 373
Michigan MI HJR O
Minnesota MN HF 245MN HF 703MN SF 323; MN SF 796
Mississippi MS HB 498MS SB 2863
Missouri MO HB 184MO HB 496MO HB 531MO HB 638MO HB 1181
Nebraska NE LB 290
Nevada NV AB 104NV SB 144NV SB 327Initiative Petition 1 (Passed by the legislature, vetoed by the governor; will appear on 2018 ballot)
New Mexico NM HB 28*; NM HJR 4
New York NY A 1022NY A 2278NY A 5312NY A 5627; NY A 5992NY A 6283; NY S 1369NY S 2399NY S 3304; NY S 3436; NY S 5114
Ohio OH HB 14
Oklahoma OK HB 1700OK HB 1817OK HB 1879
Pennsylvania PA HB 193
Rhode Island RI H 5514RI S 770RI H 5702 (Signed by the governor on July 19, 2017)
South Carolina SC H 3157SC S 135
Tennessee  TN HB 787; TN SB 592
Texas TX HB 70TX HB 3327TX SB 147TX SB 186TX SB 231
Utah UT HB 159 (Passed by the House on February 23, 2017)
Virginia VA HB 2088VA HB 2182VA SB 1051
Washington WA SB 5469WA SB 5857

 

*Legislation has been amended

2016 Automatic Voter Registration Bills Introduced

Location

Bill Number

United States US H.R. 5779US S. 3252
Alaska Alaska Voter Registration Amendment (Passed by ballot initiative on November 8, 2016)
Alabama AL HB 71AL HB 72AL HB 149AL HB 259
Arizona AZ SB 1007AZ SB 1260AZ SB 1342AZ SB 1392AZ HB 2097
Connecticut CT HB 5514
Florida FL S 1016; FL H 1067
Hawaii HI SB 2165; HI SB 2214; HI SB 2259; HI HB 1593; HI HB 1633
Illinois IL HB 6211IL SB 250 (Passed by the legislature, vetoed by the governor)
Indiana IN SB 135; IN HB 1151
Iowa IA SF 2099; IA HF 2162; IA SF 2256
Louisiana LA HB 599
Maryland MD SB 19; MD SB 11; MD SB 350; MD HB 1007
Michigan MI SB 735
Missouri MO HB 1677; MO HB 1719; MO HB 1844; MO HB 2081; MO HB 2192; MO HB 2280; MO HB 2788
New Jersey* NJ A 1944 (Passed by the legislature, vetoed by the governor)NJ A 2002NJ A 3726NJ S 1228NJ S 1998
New Mexico NM SB 2
New York  NY A 5972; NY A 10371NY S 2538
North Carolina NC H 1107NC S 854
Pennsylvania PA HB 1874
South Carolina SC H 4471
Tennessee  TN SB 1631TN HB 1724
Virginia VA SB 222; VA HB 67; VA HB 416; VA HB 1002
Washington WA SB 6379; WA HB 2682 (Passed by the House on February 15, 2016)
West Virginia WV SB 142; WV HB 4013 (Signed by the governor on April 1, 2016)

 

*Bills introduced in 2016 carry into the 2017 legislative session. 

2015 Automatic Voter Registration Bills Introduced

Location

Bill Number

United States HR 2694; US SB 1970
Alabama AL HB 529
Arizona AZ HB 2434
Arkansas AR HB 1616
California CA AB 1461 (Signed by the governor on October 10, 2015)
Georgia GA SB 31; GA HB 665
Hawaii HI SB 150; HI HB 401; HI HB 489
Illinois IL HB 4208; IL SB 2134
Louisiana LA SB 44LA SB 258; LA HB 651LA HR 132 (Passed by the House on June 10, 2015)*
Massachusetts MA H 3937
Michigan MI HB 4927MI HB 4928MI HB 4929
Minnesota MN HF 1449; MN SF 1346
New Jersey NJ A 4613 (Passed by the legislature, vetoed by the governor); NJ A 3432NJ A 4446NJ A 4500NJ A 4574; NJ S 50; NJ S 2871NJ S 2904NJ S 2905 NJ S 3040
New York NY S 5367; NY S 6075NY A 6610
Ohio OH SB 158OH HB 181OH HB 179
Oregon OR HB 2177 (Signed by the governor on March 16, 2015); OR HB 2059
Pennsylvania PA HB 1306PA SB 806
South Carolina SC S 596; SC H 3978
Texas TX HB 3267; TX SB 1449
Vermont VT H 458 (Signed by the governor on April 28, 2016)
Washington, D.C. DC LB 194 (Became law on February 18, 2017)
Wisconsin WI SB 281; WI AB 379

 

*LA HR 132 would have created a House subcommittee to examine and study automatic registration in Louisiana.