Rhode Island Becomes 9th State to Enact Automatic Voter Registration Since 2015

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  • david vance, John Marion

Tonight, Rhode Island became the ninth state, along with the District of Columbia, to successfully pass legislation to enable automatic voter registration (AVR). The bill passed by the General Assembly, and headed to Governor Gina Raimondo for signing, could allow eligible voters to automatically register to vote when they interact with state agencies. Since 2015, states have passed or adopted measures that could add millions of eligible voters to the rolls in Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Oregon, Vermont, West Virginia and the District of Columbia.

“Rhode Island joins a growing list of states working to give more of their citizens a voice in selecting their elected representatives by opening up the democratic process through automatic voter registration measures,” said Karen Hobert Flynn, president of Common Cause. “At a time when voter suppression efforts are on the rise, momentum for automatic voter registration is building across the country in red and blue state alike. Common Cause members and staff have played key roles in moving these measures forward to enable more Americans to have a voice in selecting their elected representatives.”

Based on language included in the bill, automatic voter registration could be implemented first at the Division of Motor Vehicles and could eventually expand to additional agencies tasked with registering voters under the Federal Motor Voter Law. Advocates and activists celebrate the bill’s passage as a positive step toward protecting access to the ballot, improving the accuracy of the voter rolls, and modernizing the state’s elections infrastructure.

“By enacting automatic voter registration Rhode Island is taking a big step toward increasing access to the ballot for its citizens,” said John Marion, executive director of Common Cause Rhode Island. “The bipartisan support it received in Rhode Island shows that voting rights and voting security can go hand in hand.” 

Rhode Island is one of a number of states where Common Cause has been working to advance automatic voter registration. Common Cause state offices are also leading AVR campaigns in Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, Nebraska, New Mexico, Maryland, and Hawaii. In recent years, Common Cause has played a key role in passing or enacting AVR reforms in California, Oregon, Connecticut, Colorado, and Georgia.