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.
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.
Molineaux is the co-founder and executive director of Bridge Alliance, a coalition of more than 90 civic reform groups. (Disclosure: The Bridge Alliance Education Fund is a funder of The Fulcrum.)
I grew up watching reruns of "The Andy Griffith Show" in the late 1970s. It always felt to me a little nostalgic for its lessons that simple living was best. I enjoyed the show and still appreciate the values the show exemplifies.
A few years ago, as I was watching our societal divisions widen, I explored the idea of having Sheriff Andy meet Captain Picard of "Star Trek: the Next Generation." I researched and talked with people about how to help these two fictional characters meet and converse. Eventually I abandoned the idea as a fun thought experiment without a conclusion.
Maybe I was pursuing the wrong goal — and seeking something else could help improve our civil discourse.