With nearly unanimous support, the three-party Vermont legislature passed an automatic voter registration bill late Wednesday. Under the legislation, eligible citizens will be registered to vote when they visit DMV offices, unless they opt out of registration.
If Gov. Peter Shumlin signs the bill, the state will become the fourth in the country to enact this groundbreaking reform, which puts the onus on the government to securely sign up eligible citizens to vote. The state estimates it could add between 30,000 and 50,000 new voters within the first four years.
“Automatic voter registration saves time and money, increases the accuracy of our statewide voter checklist, curbs the potential for fraud, and protects the integrity of our elections,” said Vermont Secretary of State James Condos. “As Secretary of State, I believe voting is a sacred right – one we must protect and encourage by removing unnecessary barriers. Democracy works best when more people participate. I once again applaud the Legislature for their hard work and thank them for their nonpartisan support.”
“Vermont is now the second state to endorse automatic voter registration in a major bipartisan way,” said Adam Gitlin, counsel in the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice. "This reform is a common-sense, no-brainer idea for any state looking to make voting more convenient and accessible for everyone.”
Vermont joins a growing national trend: West Virginia passed a bipartisan automatic voter registration bill in recent weeks, and Oregon and California enacted the reform in 2015. Oregon has already reported success, quadrupling registration rates since putting its new system in place in January. Overall, 28 states plus the District of Columbia have considered measures in 2016 to automatically register citizens.