Delaware Senate Approves Improvement to Voter Registration System

The Delaware Senate has just approved SB 5, on a vote of 14-7. The bill will create an automatic voter registration system at the Delaware Division of Motor Vehicles, and potentially other state agencies.

Statement of Claire Snyder-Hall, Director of Common Cause Delaware

America’s government ‘by the people’ is stronger when more people participate. But, in Delaware, not everyone does — even after last year’s community-based voter registration drives.

Census estimates suggest that at least 10,000 Delawareans of voting age are still not registered to vote. The data also indicates that 12.6% of Delawareans have moved within the past year, and may not have updated their voter registration.

But a simple change in Delaware’s voter registration process could ensure that all eligible Delawareans are registered to vote at their current address – and that they can participate in upcoming elections without bureaucratic barriers. For a one-time cost of less than $22,000, Delaware can fully implement “Automatic Voter Registration” and ensure that any updated name or address received from a registered voter during a DMV license or identification card transaction will automatically be forwarded to the Department of Elections.

Other states that have implemented “AVR” have touted its benefits. For example, Georgia’s AVR system is credited with registering almost two-thirds of the Peach State’s voters. In Oregon, AVR is considered a “phenomenal success” that increased registration among minorities, and less urban and less wealthy voters. In Connecticut, AVR is “wildly successful” and credited with adding 400,000 new voters.

AVR has been adopted and implemented in 19 states, and is part of the “For the People Act” now being debated in the US Senate. If implemented nationwide, AVR could register up to 50 million new eligible voters while making voter registration rolls more accurate, saving money, and cutting down on confusion and other problems at the polls.

But Delaware doesn’t have to wait for Congress to pass the “For the People Act” to implement AVR here — and today, our state Senate took a significant step forward by passing Senate Bill 5. We urge Delaware’s House of Representatives to do the same.