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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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