Today, Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin (D) signed into law a bill to automatically and securely register eligible citizens to vote when they obtain or renew a driver’s license from the DMV, unless they opt out of registration.
Vermont’s law comes as automatic voter registration is taking off across the country. The state is the fourth in the nation to enact this reform, and the second (after West Virginia) to pass it with strong bipartisan support.
Nationally, 28 states plus the District of Columbia have considered measures this year to automatically register citizens. Oregon and California passed automatic registration in 2015, and since Oregon put its new system in place in January, registration rates have already quadrupled.
Vermont officials are hopeful its law will have a similar impact. Within the first four years of implementation, they predict, the measure could add between 30,000 and 50,000 new voters. In 2012, the state’s registration rate ranked 30th in the country.
“Vermont’s broad support and adoption of automatic voter registration should be a signal to the rest of the country,” said Adam Gitlin, counsel in the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program. “This is a common-sense reform that will boost the security of our elections and could increase voter participation. We commend the General Assembly, Secretary Condos, and Governor Shumlin for their leadership.”
“In Vermont at least, voting is an idea that leaders of all political stripes can get behind,” said Paul Burns, executive director of the Vermont Public Interest Research Group. “The simple truth is, this law will mean more people voting, and that’s healthy for our democracy.”
"At a time when several other states are busy setting up roadblocks to voter registration and participation, we are proud to be part of the effort to take an important step forward for democracy," said Sheila Reed, board member of Rights & Democracy from Ryegate, VT.
“What struck me most about this process was that the debate turned entirely on ensuring that every part of this bill increased access broadly and equitably for all Vermonters,” said Lindsay DesLauriers, director of the Main Street Alliance of Vermont. “While there is a push to limit voter access in other parts of this country, the members of all parties in Vermont questioned only the extent to which this legislation could be more inclusive and create more opportunities for people to vote.”
Read more about Voter Registration Modernization.