New Study Documents Success of Automatic Voter Registration

Posted by Dale Eisman on June 7, 2017

A report released today by our friends at the Center for American Progress (CAP) documents the success of automatic voter registration programs championed by Common Cause and other voting rights advocates across the country.

“Who Votes With Automatic Voter Registration?” zeroes in on Oregon’s first-in-the-nation adoption of automatic registration, which adds qualified citizens to the voter rolls automatically when they do business with a state agency, usually the Department of Motor Vehicles. Oregon began automatic registration in 2015; the reform has since been embraced by Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Vermont, and West Virginia. An automatic registration bill also has passed the Illinois legislature and is awaiting action by Gov. Bruce Rauner, who has promised to sign it.

You can read the full CAP report here.  The executive summary is reprinted below.

"After several years of work by a diverse set of citizen groups and government officials, Oregon passed the nation’s first automatic voter registration (AVR) law in 2015.1 It went into effect in January 2016 and was in use for the 2016 elections. Locally termed Oregon Motor Voter (OMV), the program aims to modernize the voter registration system, make voter rolls more accurate and efficient, simplify the registration process for voters and administrators, and increase voter participation.

"The system assures that every eligible citizen who interacts with the Oregon Office of Motor Vehicles has an up-to-date registration record and is able to vote. By a wide range of measures, Oregon’s modern voter registration system had positive effects:

  • More than 272,000 new people were added to the voter rolls, and more than 98,000 of them were new voters in the November 2016 presidential election.
  • OMV registrants made up 8.7 percent of people registered to vote and constituted 4.7 percent of all voters in Oregon.
  • More than 116,000 people registered who were unlikely to have done so otherwise, and more than 40,000 of these previously disengaged people voted in the November election.
  • Oregon’s electorate is now more representative of the state’s population since citizens registered through OMV are younger, more rural, lower-income, and more ethnically diverse.

"This report finds significant demographic and geographic differences between these newly registered voters and those who registered through traditional means. Compared with traditional registrants and voters, AVR registrants and voters were:

  • Noticeably younger—about 40 percent of AVR registrants and 37 percent of AVR voters were age 30 or younger. In comparison, 20 percent of eligible Oregon citizens are age 18 to 29
  • More likely to live in suburban areas and less likely to live in urban areas
  • More likely to live in low- and middle-income areas
  • More likely to live in lower-education areas
  • More likely to live in racially diverse areas—the average AVR registrant’s community was more Hispanic and less white than that of traditional registrants

"While every state may have different attributes, Oregon provides strong evidence in favor of automatic voter registration. AVR strengthens democracy by expanding and broadening the electorate. AVR’s streamlined systems can save states and localities significant costs, make the voter registration lists more accurate and up to date, and increase the security of the voting system. AVR is the next logical step in creating an efficient, secure, and modern voter registration system for the 21st century."


Office: California Common Cause, Colorado Common Cause, Common Cause Alaska, Common Cause Connecticut, Common Cause Georgia, Common Cause Illinois, Common Cause National, Common Cause West Virginia

Issues: Voting and Elections

Tags: Registration and Voting Systems

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