Vermont passes automatic voter registration nearly unanimously

Yesterday, Vermont governor Peter Shumlin signed a bill providing for automatic voter registration in Vermont for citizens who interact with the DMV and other state agencies unless they opt out.

Vermont is now the fourth state to adopt automatic voter registration, with Oregon, California and West Virginia having already adopted the policy.

As was the case in West Virginia, Vermont’s automatic voter registration bill included broad support from both parties in the state. Unlike West Virginia, Vermont’s automatic voter registration bill was not paired with any other electoral reforms. West Virginia’s measure was included as part of a compromise that included a soft voter ID requirement.

As I’ve written before, there really aren’t any good arguments against automatic voter registration. As I’ve also written before, Republicans who would normally be expected to come up with bad arguments against automatic voter registration seem to not bother themselves when they happen to live in states where the non-white population is low as a percentage of the total.

Vermont is the second-whitest state in the country, with less than one percent of its population identifying as African-American.

Register, via Shutterstock

Register, via Shutterstock

So good on Vermont Republicans for getting on board with automatic voter registration, and I’d expect to see the policy continue to pick up momentum in blue states where Democrats control the legislature and governor’s mansion. It’s currently on the docket in over half of the states, plus DC. But let’s not kid ourselves: In states where partisanship doesn’t intersect with race, making voting easier is clearly not as controversial as in states where it does.

As I wrote in January, this fits a pattern:

Racism remains one of the primary predictors of opposition to social welfare programs in the United States. And it’s no accident that the states with some of the most progressive policies — North Dakota has a public bank; Utah provides free housing to its homeless population; Alaska’s permanent fund dividend is, for all intents and purposes, a universal basic income — also happen to be some of the whitest.

Automatic voter registration still doesn’t appear to be all that big of a deal for Republicans if black people don’t stand to benefit from it. If the GOP wants to prove me wrong, they can go ahead and get on board with the policy in a state where African-Americans make up more than five percent of the population.


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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  • Dorothypdunham1

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  • Demosthenes

    My deepest wishes are to John & Jon for a Happy Orthodox Easter! Or, have a great Sunday!

  • confusion

    MAY DAY..

  • Chicago has an opt-in system (I don’t know if this is statewide or just Cook County), so anytime you renew an ID or driver’s license, you are asked if you want to register to vote. If you say yes, they enter your information and a couple weeks later you get your voter’s registration card. Pretty much a no-brainer.

    Not a really white place, but a really Democratic place.

  • Earlenejcarson

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  • Moderator3

    Good. Now go celebrate Easter.

  • Good.

  • ComradeRutherford

    Vermont is so white, not only do our felons not lose their right to vote, they can vote from jail!

    Clearly, restricting felons voting rights is 100% racism-based.

  • Demosthenes

    Test post.

    Moderator — I can post. Thanks!

  • Martha Barnes

    “my room mate Lori Is getting paid on the internet 98$/hr”…..!cc277gtwo days ago grey MacLaren P1 I bought after earning 18,512 DoIIars..it was my previous month’s payout..just a little over.17k DoIIars Last month..3-5 hours job a day…with weekly payouts..it’s realy the simplest. job I have ever Do.. I Joined This 7 months. ago. and now making over. hourly 87 DoIIars…Learn. More right Here !cc277g:➽:➽:➽➽➽➽ http://GlobalSuperJobsReportsEmploymentsTheoryGetPayHourly$98…. .❖❖:❦❦:❖❖:❦❦:❖❖:❦❦:❖❖:❦❦:❖❖:❦❦:❖❖:❦❦:❖❖:❦❦:❖❖:❦❦:❖❖:❦❦:❖❖:❦❦:❖❖:❦❦::::::!cc277g….,….

  • What this makes me think of is how very different the states are, and how unequal our equal rights supposedly granted in the Constitution really are. When partisans control all aspects of your state government, you get poisoned by drinking the water or breathing the air, don’t get to control your own health care decisions, and can’t pee without showing your proof of genitalia card. Then those people complain that their freedoms are being taken away by Mexicans or Muslims, and rush into the polls to demand that more of their rights be taken away.

  • This sort of thing needs to be a national rule.

  • Demosthenes

    Automatic voter registration is an efficient, intelligent, and fair way to ensure citizens can vote if they so wish. It should increase turnout. Thus, one can expect the GOP to fight it in all states where they control the levers of government.

  • gratuitous

    You could be, and probably are, correct about the link between partisanship and race. But that recedes a bit – I think – when the momentum begins building for motor-voter registration. Four states have it, more are considering it, and opposition to easy registration doesn’t want to have to stop and explain how white Vermont, West Virginia and Oregon are. Certainly California doesn’t fit the mold (but then, Republicans overplayed their hand for so long in California that they’ve practically eliminated themselves from the public policy conversation).

    I think more states will take up streamlined voter registration, and more racially diverse states will pass similar laws. This is one of the last arrows in the Republican strategic quiver, and they will have to modify their platform of fear or continue to ebb as a political force in the country.

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