Connecticut Secretary of State Denise Merrill has submitted draft legislation to her state legislature’s General Administration and Elections Committee that would establish a system of automatic voter registration through its Department of Motor Vehicles offices.
The legislation is modeled after similar laws that recently went on the books in Oregon and California. Including Connecticut, automatic voter registration bills have been proposed in fifteen states in 2016 alone. In 2015, 20 states, plus Washington, DC and the federal government, considered automatic voter registration legislation. In New Jersey, Chris Christie vetoed an AVR bill that passed both houses of the state legislature, although activists in the state have vowed to put the proposal on the statewide ballot and pass it via referendum.
Oregon began implementing its automatic voter registration system last month, and has already reported that its rate of voter registration has skyrocketed. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, “Oregon officials reported that based on preliminary data, Oregon Motor Voter added 4,300 people to the rolls in the first six days – more than double the previous average number of registered voters per month.”
According to Secretary Merrill’s office, “The data provided to the DMV would populate a voter registration form. An ‘e-signature’ program would permit an electronic signature to be collected so the client could certify citizenship; accept or refuse to register to vote or affiliate with a party. The registration applications would be electronically transmitted to the Registrars of Voters.” The inclusion of an e-signature in their process underscores the fact that, in response to one of the most commonly-raised objections to the policy, automatic voter registration really won’t lead to a large number of undocumented immigrants being added to the voter rolls.
As I’ve written before, there aren’t any good arguments against automatic voter registration, although there are a few bad ones. The United States remains one of the world’s only modern democracies that places the burden of registering to vote on the citizen, as opposed to the state. This hurdle keeps millions of Americans who would otherwise vote from casting ballots every year.
To that point, a recent report from Demos projected that automatic voter registration via the DMV would add 312,000 people to the state’s voter rolls. The margin of victory in the state’s 2014 gubernatorial race was just over 27,000 votes.