What is Automatic Voter Registration?
In short, automatic voter registration is the most effective and efficient way to bring millions of new voters into our elections.
Approximately 51 million eligible Americans are not registered to vote in the 2012 election. This number represents a disproportionate share of low-income voters, people of color, and younger Americans. 30 percent of eligible African Americans, 40 percent of Hispanics, 45 percent of Asian Americans, and 41 percent of young adults (ages 18-24), were not registered to vote in 2008. One study of Google search terms for registration after registration deadlines had passed, found that between three and four million eligible Americans would have voted, but were too late to register.
In short, the antiquated, “opt-in,” system of registration is leaving a lot of our democracy – disproportionately minority and young citizens – at home. Automatic voter registration simply flips the opt-in nature of registering your right to vote, to opt-out to forgo them.
Currently, in its most common application under the Motor-Voter Act, eligible citizens have the choice to register to vote when they get their driver’s license through motor-voter provisions. However, because they have to opt-in, many eligible voters don’t end up getting registered.
With automatic voter registration, every eligible voter will be automatically registered when they get a driver’s license or state identification card. Eligible citizens who already have driver's licenses or state ID card will also be automatically added to the voting rolls, and will be notified by mail. If a person does not want to register to vote, he or she can ‘opt-out.’
If passed, this small administrative step saves money, simultaneously cleans up voter rolls and adds millions of voters, increases security, and most importantly increases voter turnout.
Because of its simplicity and benefits, momentum for automatic voter registration is growing. Since 2015, when Oregon became the first state to pass automatic voter registration, iVote has run multiple advocacy and electoral campaigns across the country with thirteen other states and the District of Columbia adopting it.
Why Automatic Voter Registration?
The 2018 primaries proved that when we increase turnout – especially among minority, young and urban voters – Democrats win. While turnout this year was built on the anger, energy, and enthusiasm of the Resistance, we know that won't be the case every year. So, the question we need to ask is "What if we could leverage the increased turnout this year to increase turnout every year?"
Automatic voter registration has proven to increase turnout, especially among younger, lower-income voters and people of color. In its first year of implementation in Oregon saw 272,000 newly voters including 116,000 that wouldn’t have been registered without automatic voter registration. As a result, Oregon saw the largest increase in turnout in the union. And it wasn’t just that overall turnout was up, it disproportionately increased among lower income, younger and voters of color.
The biggest opportunity yet
The example of Oregon shows that automatic voter registration dramatically increases voter turnout. Now, imagine if we could achieve these results in a swing state.
That’s exactly what we can do in Nevada this year. Every four years, Presidential candidates spend millions competing for Nevada’s electoral votes, and any Democratic path to 270 will have to go through Nevada.
The Silver State has 800,000 eligible but unregistered voters, with a disproportionate number being young, low-income and people of color. Registering a fraction, let alone all, of these voters would help secure Democratic wins for years to come.
In 2016 iVote ran a state-wide petition drive to collect enough signatures to put automatic voter registration on the 2018 ballot. So, in 2016 iVote invested in putting AVR on the 2018 ballot. If this ballot measure passes, we not only register the nearly 800K, we register every new voter – every person that moves into the transient state like Nevada, every new citizen, every new 18-year old, every new college student that comes to the state – FOREVER.
That’s a game-changer. Learn more about how you can help on our Nevada campaign page.