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.
The list of states with AVR more than doubled in 2016. 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.
*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. 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 other government agencies in addition to the DMV. The law enables the secretary of state to implement the policy at state 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.
2018 has been the biggest year yet for automatic registration.
Washington approved AVR in March, and Maryland and New Jersey both followed suit in April. Massachusetts joined 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. In the 2018 midterm elections, AVR ballot initiatives in both Nevada and Michigan passed with strong bipartisan margins.
Maine became the first state to pass AVR in 2019 when Governor Janet Mills signed LD 1463 into law.
In 2020, Virginia and New York passed and signed AVR into law. Washington D.C. also enacted legislation adding the Department of Corrections as an AVR agency.
In 2021, Connecticut passed and signed AVR into law. This codified an initial agreement to implement AVR at the DMV and expanded AVR to other state voter registration agencies. Delaware enacted AVR just one week later.
Short of adopting AVR, in 2018, Utah took recent steps to increase their voter registration rates at the DMV. The state 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