Senate Bills Would Transform and Modernize Voting in America

August 6, 2015

Two U.S. senators introduced bills yesterday that would upgrade America’s voting system by making it more flexible, accurate, and convenient.

A bill from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) would automatically register eligible citizens when they interact with certain government agencies, like motor vehicle offices and social service agencies, among others. Other legislation from Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) would allow voters to register online, create early voting opportunities nationwide, and let voters who move within a state update their address on Election Day instead of having to re-register.

The proposals build on recent momentum to modernize outdated voter registration systems in states across the country. In March, for example, Oregon passed a breakthrough law to automatically register eligible citizens in the driver’s license database. Legislators in 17 states and the District of Columbia introduced similar bills this year. In a campaign speech in June, Hillary Clinton embraced “universal, automatic voter registration” for eligible citizens once they turn 18. Since the 2012 election, 23 states plus the District of Columbia have passed new laws to improve voting.

“In 2015, too many states still rely on ink and paper voter registration forms. Americans deserve a 21st century voting system,” said Wendy Weiser, director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice. “Automatic registration would transform voting in this country. For the first time, the government would take responsibility to ensure every eligible citizen is accurately and securely registered to vote.”

“A modern registration system is more accurate and less costly, and could add millions of new voters while curbing the potential for fraud,” added Myrna PĂ©rez, deputy director of the Center’s Democracy Program. “More early voting opportunities will also ensure every American can find a convenient time to cast a ballot. These ideas will help modernize our nation’s voting system for a new era.”

The Senate bills come as Americans across the country commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, a landmark federal law that helped prevent discrimination in voting. Read the Brennan Center’s statement on the Act’s anniversary here.

The push to modernize voting also comes amid a larger battle over voting rights in America. Since the 2010 election, 21 states have new voting restrictions in place, according to a Brennan Center analysis. In 2016, 15 states will have more strict rules in place than in 2012.

Read more about the Brennan Center’s Voter Registration Modernization proposal.