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VRM in the States: Washington

In March 2018, Washington became the tenth state to approve automatic voter registration.

Last Updated: December 9, 2019
Published: March 28, 2018

On March 19, 2018, Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill that made Washington the tenth state to authorize automatic voter registration. Under the bill, Washingtonians who apply for or renew an enhanced driver’s license at the Department of Licensing will automatically be registered to vote unless they decline. The bill also requires public assistance agencies to move toward automatic voter registration, and for the state’s health benefit exchange to implement electronic voter registration. The state is scheduled to implement the system by July 2019. Learn more about automatic registration here.

Additional Advances in Voter Registration Modernization

  • Electronic Voter Registration: Washington launched electronic voter registration at Department of Licensing (DOL) offices in 2008. DOL technicians enter the voter’s vocal responses electronically and scan a paper form that contains the registrant’s signature. Voter registration information is transferred daily to election officials.
  • Online Voter Registration: Washington launched online voter registration through the Secretary of State’s Office in 2008. Eligible citizens with a state driver’s license or non-driver ID can use the system to register to vote and update their registration information.
  • Election Day Registration: Washington implemented Election Day registration in 2019. Individuals will be able to register to vote in-person at a location designated by the county auditor at any time, up to and including Election Day.
  • Preregistration: Washington implemented preregistration in 2019, enabling 16– and 17-year-olds to preregister to vote. Those who preregister will be able to vote once they turn 18 without needing to re-register.
  • Automatic voter registration: Washington implemented automatic voter registration (AVR) in 2019

Gains from Voter Registration Modernization in Washington  

The steps Washington has taken thus far have yielded increases in voter registration and financial benefits for the state. For example:  

  • During a March 2013 interview with Brennan Center staff, Washington election officials reported saving 25 cents with each online registration, totaling approximately $176,000 in the first two years after launching the program. In addition to these state-level savings, counties in Washington reported saving between 50 cents and $2.00 per online registration.
  • Washington implemented online registration at a cost of approximately $279,000.
  • Between November 2014 and November 2016, the state received 185,205 new voter registration applications through its online portal.  
  • In the years following the introduction of electronic registration in 2008, registration rates at the DMV nearly doubled.