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Automatic voter registration grows rolls a lot, study finds

Automatic registration laws have significantly increased the number of people signed up to vote, a new study finds.

Fifteen states and Washington, D.C., have enacted laws in the past five years under which anyone eligible to vote is registered when they interact with a government agency, such as a department of motor vehicles, unless those people ask to opt out.

The liberal-leaning Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School, which supports easier ballot access, studied the eight jurisdictions where the laws have been on the books long enough to generate significant data. They concluded the voter rolls had surged significantly in each place above what the increase would have been without automatic voter registration. The biggest gain was in Georgia, where the ranks of registered voters soared from 6 million to almost 7 million between 2014 and last fall — what the Brennan Center viewed as a 94 percent increase above what would have been expected without the new law.

The other gains:

  • Vermont: 60 percent
  • Rhode Island: 47 percent
  • Alaska: 34 percent
  • California: 27 percent
  • Colorado: 16 percent
  • Oregon: 16 percent
  • Washington, D.C.: 9 percent

Automatic voter registration is one of a handful of voting rights proposals in H.R. 1, which the Democratic House passed along party lines but the Republican-majority Senate does not plan to debate.

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Democrats in the House released a report Thursday outlining what they say are widespread voting rights violations found during a series of hearings around the country. They are looking to reinstate a portion of the original Voting Rights Act of 1965 that was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013. Above, President Lyndon Johnson hands one of the pens he used to sign the bill to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Another partisan turn in the standoff over reviving the Voting Rights Act

House Democrats are continuing their push for stronger voting rights protections, releasing findings Thursday from a series of 2019 field hearings across the country on impediments to voting.

The 144-page report concludes that "the fundamental right to vote is under attack" and calls for congressional action.

But the report, prepared by the Democrats on a House subcommittee with jurisdiction over elections policy, does not include any of the views of minority Republicans, who said in a separate statement that they disagree with the Democrats' conclusions.

The usual practice in Congress is to include dissenting views in all committee reports, so the breakdown of that process is further evidence of Capitol Hill's ever more harshly partisan tone in general and its recent approach to voting rights in particular.

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