History of AVR & Implementation Dates

AVR's legislative momentum and success has continued to make more strides year-after-year.

July 24, 2018

In March 2015, Oregon became the first state to pass a breakthrough law to automatically register eligible citizens who interact with the DMV (except those who decline). California — with its estimated 6.6 million eligible but unregistered voters — was the next to pass AVR, adopting the policy in October 2015.

2016 was the biggest year yet for automatic registration. The West Virginia and Vermont legislatures passed AVR 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.

To close out the year, Alaskans passed a ballot measure on November 8 to institute AVR via the Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD), a sum paid by the state to all eligible residents. The Illinois and New Jersey legislatures also approved automatic registration in 2016, but both bills were vetoed.

State

Approval Date

Implementation Date

Alaska

November 2016: Ballot Measure 1 approved by voters

March 2017

California

October 2015: AB 1461 signed into law

April 2018

Colorado

2017: AVR approved administratively

February 2017 (tested at only certain locations)

District of Columbia

December 2016: B21-0194 signed into law

June 2018 

Georgia

2016: AVR approved administratively

September 2016

Illinois

August 2017: SB 1933 signed into law

July 2018 (statutory deadline)

Maryland 

April 2018: SB 1048 enacted without governor's signature*

July 2019 (statutory deadline)

Massachusetts

August 2018: H 4320 signed into law

January 2020 (statutory deadline)

New Jersey

April 2018: AB 2014 signed into law

November 2018 (statutory deadline)

Oregon

March 2015: HB 2177 signed into law

January 2016

Preliminary Results: In the November 2016 general election, nearly 100,000 votes were cast out of the 230,000 ballots mailed to individuals who had registered automatically.

Rhode Island

July 2017: HB 5702 signed into law

June 2018

Vermont

April 2016: HB 458 signed into law

January 2017

Preliminary Results: In program’s first sixth months, the state netted more than 12,000 new and updated registrations from the DMV.

Washington

March 2018: HB2595 signed into law

July 2019 (statutory deadline)

West Virginia

April 2016: HB 4013 signed into law

July 2019 (statutory deadline)

*The bill became law after the governor declined to either sign or veto it
 

Momentum for AVR carried into 2017. Colorado approved the policy administratively and began implementing it at DMV offices. 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 2017, Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo signed an AVR bill that the legislature had passed with overwhelming support. The state was the first to apply AVR to social service agencies in addition to the DMV. The law enables the secretary of state to implement the policy at social service agencies that collect the information necessary to determine voter eligibility.

Illinois approved AVR in August 2017, when Gov. Bruce Rauner — who vetoed a separate automatic registration bill the year prior — 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.

The list of automatic registration states has continued to grow in 2018. Washington approved AVR in March, and Maryland and New Jersey both followed suit in April. Massachusetts join as well, passing AVR in August. They all joined Illinois and Rhode Island in applying the reform to public assistance agencies as well as the DMV. 

Two other states, Connecticut in 2016 and Utah in 2018, have taken recent steps to increase their voter registration rates at the DMV. Both approved electronic voter registration at DMV offices, with systems that require a “hard stop” for voter registration during transactions. Each customer cannot complete their transaction—such as applying for a new license or updating their address—without either affirmatively accepting or declining registration (unlike AVR, individuals must still opt-in to register to vote).

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 AVR 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