To ensure our democracy works for everyone, elections must be free, fair, and accessible.
Voting is one of the major ways we communicate with our elected officials and speak up for what we believe in. However, even today many hardworking Americans face real barriers that interfere with their journey to the ballot box.
Currently, there are about 680,000 Massachusetts residents who are eligible to vote but not registered. Automatic Voter Registration (AVR) will help give these citizens a voice.
Automatic Voter Registration makes commonsense updates to modernize our registration system so more eligible Americans can register, vote, and make themselves heard, while at the same time safeguarding our elections with better technology.
In June, the Massachusetts House voted in favor of AVR with a strong bipartisan vote of 130-20. A few weeks later, the Senate followed up by unanimously approving the bill. And finally, on August 9th 2018, Governor Charlie Baker signed AVR into law, making Massachusetts the 14th state to adopt this crucial reform.
AVR provides three major solutions—
- Enhanced inclusivity: AVR requires that every eligible citizen who interacts with state agencies like the Registry of Motor Vehicles be automatically registered to vote, unless they decline. This simple swap from an opt-in to an opt-out system could bring hundreds of thousands of new eligible voters to the polls on Election Day.
- Increased accuracy: If a citizen is already registered, AVR will update the voter’s contact information, making sure our rolls are as up-to-date as possible. We’ve already seen how big a difference this can make—in Oregon, AVR updated 265,000 incorrect addresses in just its first 6 months.
- Fortified security: The Massachusetts AVR bill joins our state with the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), a national clearinghouse that collects registration information and compares it with that of other state and federal databases to remove ineligible voters and identify new voters, increasing voting security.
We know that AVR works. The U.S. Election Assistance Commission released a report in 2017 showing Oregon’s Automatic Voter Registration law has added 375,000 new voters to the rolls in just 18 months—a 12% increase in the state’s registered voters. Similarly, Vermont’s Automatic Voter Registration law has registered over 12,300 new voters in the first six months of the law being enacted, according to a recent report by the Vermont Secretary of State.
Fourteen states (IL, RI, VT, CT, WV, CO, GA, AK, WA, MD, CA, OR, NJ, and MA) and Washington, D.C. have already adopted AVR, often with bipartisan support.
The policy is already proving to have a dramatic effect increasing voter registration and getting new voters engaged. We have also seen low implementation costs in many of these states, summarized in a May 2018 Common Cause report. Massachusetts’ implementation process will begin in 2020.