Automatic Voter Registration Would Present Minimal Costs to the Commonwealth, Study Shows

Automatic Voter Registration Would Present Minimal Costs to the Commonwealth, Study Shows

BOSTON, MA — A study released today by Common Cause Massachusetts examines the cost of implementing Automatic Voter Registration in Oregon, Vermont, and Colorado and concludes that in Massachusetts, “costs to implement the reform will likely be minimal, and many could be covered by funds available in the state’s HAVA [Help America Vote Act] account.”

AVR is currently under consideration on Beacon Hill, where it received a favorable report from the Joint Committee on Election Laws and is now in the House Ways and Means Committee. The legislation was originally sponsored by Senator Cynthia Creem and the late Representative Peter Kocot, as well as 22 other Senators and 83 Representatives and is supported by a diverse coalition of 64 organizations.

“AVR is a cost-effective, practical, and effective reform that could significantly improve the voter registration process in Massachusetts,” said Pam Wilmot, Executive Director of Common Cause Massachusetts. “It will not place a financial burden on the state. We urge the legislature to act swiftly to pass this bill to modernize the Commonwealth’s elections.”

Although AVR has also been adopted in Alaska, California, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, Rhode Island, West Virginia, Washington state, and Washington, DC, they were not far enough along in their implementation process to produce useful data. Figures for the study from Oregon, Colorado, and Vermont were provided by Oregon Elections Director Steve Trout, Vermont Director of Elections and Campaign Finance Will Senning, and Colorado Director of Elections Doug Choate.

Most state expenditures were comprised of updates to information technology. As in other states, these expenses are eligible to be covered by the state’s Help America Vote Act (HAVA) funds, of which there are approximately $43 million remaining in Massachusetts.

With AVR, eligible citizens who interact with the Registry of Motor Vehicles and MassHealth will be automatically registered to vote, unless they choose to decline. This simple change from an opt-in to an opt-out system could add up to 700,000 new voters in the Commonwealth. Voters’ contact information will also be updated during these visits, ensuring our rolls are as up-to-date as possible.

Automatic Voter Registration is supported by the Election Modernization Coalition, led by Common Cause Massachusetts, the League of Women Voters or Massachusetts, MASSPIRG, MassVOTE, the Massachusetts Voter Table, the ACLU of Massachusetts, and Progressive Massachusetts. A full list of organizations endorsing AVR can be found here, and more information about AVR can be found here.

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