The ease of automatic voter registration

New ways to register to vote have made the process easier


Infographic by Kaden Roth

Automatic voter registration allows for a more accessible way to register. The information given to government agencies is used but citizens are still able to opt-out.Voting is an important part of the US and should be treated as such.

Kaden Roth, Staff Reporter

With the upcoming 2020 election between Republican candidate Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Joe Biden, voting has been a popular topic of discussion. One of the biggest discussions surrounding voting is the citizens’ right to use their voice to impact their country. Many believe that as a citizen with a right to vote, it is a  responsibility as a citizen to do so. One solution that is currently being used to solve this discourse is automatic voter registration (AVR). 

Automatic voter registration registers eligible citizens who interact with government agencies to vote or have their existing registration information updated unless they choose to opt-out. Not only does this system encourage voting but it also allows for the agencies that receive the registration to electronically transfer voter information to election officials.

 In a 2019 article published by the Brennan Center for Justice, in the first six months after AVR was implemented in Vermont back in 2017, registration rates jumped 62% when compared to the first half of 2016. 

Automatic voter registration is currently implemented in 16 states in the US as well as Washington D.C. and has shown an increase in voter turnout. Pam Fessler, a reporter for NPR, states in her 2019 article “Report: Voter Rolls Are Growing Owing To Automatic Voter Registration” that “[report by the Center for American Progress] noted that Oregon’s program added 390,000 new voters as of August 2017 and more than half of them were under the age of 40. The center credited the state’s automatic registration system with increased voter turnout in 2016.” 

Automatic voter registration obviously has a major impact on voter turnout with both positive and negative sides. When there are more people registered to vote it ensures that a majority of the population is represented in the government. 

That being said, more registered voters doesn’t always mean more educated voters. This can be very detrimental and although it doesn’t directly oppose the purpose of AVR, it can be harmful to the country. In order to prevent uneducated voters from going to the polls, there should also be a large focus on educating citizens about the candidates and what their stances are on important issues.

AVR makes citizens “opt-out” voters rather than “opt-in” for people who interact with government agencies. These agencies include the DMV which uses a person’s updated information unless they decline. This makes the process of registering to vote so much easier for the voters themselves which takes away the time needed to register otherwise. 

America, however, trails most developed countries when it comes to the number of Americans of voting age who actually vote. In “U.S. trails most developed countries in voter turnout,” an article published by the Pew Research Center written by Drew DeSilver states that “nearly 56% of the U.S. voting-age population cast ballots in the 2016 presidential election, representing a slight uptick compared with 2012 but less than in the record year of 2008.”  In the same article DeSilver goes on to explain that “the 55.7% VAP turnout in 2016 puts the U.S. behind most of its peers in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), most of whose members are highly developed, democratic states.” 

In a country where the voices of the people are so highly valued, it is hypocritical that the citizens don’t use said voices and rights to partake in voting for their elected officials. As a country, we pride ourselves on being able to help “under-developed” countries gain freedoms and rights we already hold. However, the Americans who fight for others’ rights choose not to use their right to vote in their own country’s government.

There are many reasons that citizens end up not voting, but many if not all of them could be solved by implementing automatic voter registration. In a survey conducted by Pew Research Center, researchers found that “despite these well-publicized efforts, more than 60% of adult citizens have never been asked to register to vote, and the rate was nearly identical among individuals who are and are not registered.” 

When voters have to register themselves it appears that they aren’t as motivated to register, but AVR could help prevent that by automatically signing voters up. The survey goes on to state that  “among respondents who had been invited to register, the most likely context was by an official at a motor vehicle agency, social service agency, or other government offices. However, less than 20% of all those surveyed reported such an occurrence, which indicates that the NVRA has not been successful at reaching a large percentage of the population.” It seems that places like the DMV are already inviting voters to register and although it is currently only 20% of the time, AVR could encourage more conversation to spark surrounding voting.

Voting is such an important part of our Democracy and plays a large role in who we see representing our country and our interests. Choosing not to vote is only detrimental to ourselves and could be changed if AVR was implemented throughout the country. When voting is made easier it becomes more accessible to the public which can encourage more people to take part in their government.