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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Outdated voter registration systems contribute to the United States’ low participation rates.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That’s at least partly due to our outdated voter registration systems.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, 16 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.