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History of AVR & Implementation Dates

AVR’s legislative momentum and success has continued to make more strides year after year.

Last Updated: June 30, 2021
Published: June 19, 2019

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