Registration: An Introduction
America's hearing two different stories, and each has a point.
NOT ENOUGH VOTING...
The US is the only G20 country that puts the burden of registration on citizens. The result: in 2016, the U.S. had a 70% voter registration rate, compared with other advanced democracies, whose rate is in the mid 90s.
It's hard to get registered: citizens face increasingly high documentation bar, and even "free" ID costs $#75-175 in travel, fees and lost work time. Handwriting, disorganization, or sabotage can result in a form not being processed.
It's hard to stay registered, too: voters who move need to re-register; in many states, voters are erroneously purged using discredited criteria and algorithms.
How do we ensure that ALL eligible voters have a chance to vote, and prevent them from being removed by hacking or human error?
OR TOO MUCH?
1 in 8 American voter registration records are in accurate. Americans move frequently, and most don't alert their former state that they're gone. Many people are registered in two states, a situation that could be exploited.
The Registry of Voters can't easily check to ensure that voters who no longer belong on the rolls are removed.
Paper registrations, due to mistakes or voter confusion, can result in non-citizens being registered. Unlawful voting's rare — weighed against a potential 10-yr sentence, adding one vote to a candidate who won't even represent you is a very high cost/return. Still: why not eliminate this possibility?
How do we create truly accurate voter rolls, ensuring that ONLY eligible citizens on the rolls?
AUTOMATIC VOTER REGISTRATION
The common-sense solution that puts more eligible voters; keeps the rolls more accurate; and ensures that ONLY eligible voters are on the rolls.
ACCURACY: With the implementation of the federal “Real ID” law, which was passed after 9/11, state agencies are now required, and trained, to check documentation of citizenship. This means that both motor vechicle agencies and health agencies can more accurately vet who is/is not a citizen. In addition, because voters are more motivated to update their status at these agencies, the contact data these agencies have is far more accurate. When they skim it off, and transfer it to the Central Registry, our voter rolls become far more accurate.
SECURITY: AVR secures the rolls by frequently checking them against other databases.
PARTICIPATION: Our national rate of voter registration in 2016 was 70%. Even for states with higher rates, hundreds of thousands of eligible voters remain unregistered. In Oregon, the first state to pass AVR, 44% of AVR-registered voters voted for the first time in 2016; in 2018, 43% of AVR voters were first-time voters. Wow.
CONVENIENCE: When they interact with the agencies, voters are automatically registered unless they decline. AVR changes the default from opt-in to opt-out.
STREAMLINING: Clerks no longer needs to process a mountain of paper forms in the months before an election.
COST SAVINGS: Once the data bridges between agencies are in place, electronic registrations can cost less than 1% of a paper registration that must be read and processed by a person in the voter registry office.