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Automatic Voter Registration

Outdated voter registration systems contribute to the United States’ low participation rates. Automatic voter registration could put every eligible voter on the rolls and give more Americans a voice.

Overview

The United States has one of the lowest voter turnout rates among developed nations. 

That’s at least partly due to our outdated voter regis­tra­tion systems. Too often, voters show up to the polls to find their names are not on the rolls. Nearly a quarter of eligible voters are not registered to vote, and about one in eight regis­tra­tion records is invalid or has seri­ous errors. 

Auto­matic voter regis­tra­tion (AVR) makes regis­ter­ing “opt-out” instead of “opt-in.” Eligible citizens who inter­act with govern­ment agen­cies, such as the Depart­ment of Motor Vehicles, are registered to vote or have their exist­ing regis­tra­tion inform­a­tion updated auto­mat­ic­ally, unless they actively decline. The voter’s inform­a­tion is trans­mit­ted to elec­tion offi­cials elec­tron­ic­ally rather than via paper regis­tra­tion forms. These cost-effect­ive reforms increase regis­tra­tion rates and clean up the voter rolls.

AVR is gain­ing momentum across the coun­try. In the past five years, 19 states and the District of Columbia have adop­ted AVR, and research from the Bren­nan Center has found it has success­fully increased voter regis­tra­tion rates where imple­men­ted. 

Addi­tional reforms needed to modern­ize our voting regis­tra­tion process include:

  • Online access: Voters can register, check, and update their regis­tra­tion records through a secure and access­ible online portal.
  • Same day regis­tra­tion: Eligible citizens can correct errors on the rolls or register before and on Elec­tion Day.

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