Today, senior congressional lawmakers introduced the Automatic Voter Registration Act of 2016, a transformative bill that would add up to 50 million new voters by automatically registering eligible citizens to vote. The initiative, led by Rep. Robert Brady (D-Pa.) with Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), would also cut costs and improve the accuracy and security of America’s voter rolls. Under the plan, when a citizen interacts with a government agency — for example, to get a driver’s license, apply for public services, apply for a license for a firearm, register for classes at a public university, or when becoming a naturalized citizen — she is automatically signed up to vote, unless she declines. In the past 16 months, five states, several with bipartisan support, have adopted automatic registration, through the department of motor vehicles. Oregon, the first state to fully implement the plan, is now a national leader in voter registration rates, and has quadrupled its rate of new registrations at the DMV compared to previous years. The Automatic Voter Registration Act of 2016 builds off this tremendous momentum by expanding automatic registration nationwide, and to more government agencies.
“This bill is a significant breakthrough in the fight for a stronger democracy,” said Michael Waldman, president of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. “Automatic, universal registration marks a paradigm shift in the way we run elections. It would enfranchise millions while boosting security and reducing error. In the long struggle for voting rights, this is an innovative and encouraging next step. Rep. Brady and Senate leaders deserve enormous credit for putting the fight for a stronger democracy at the heart of policy, where it belongs.”
“Voting is the foundation of democracy. Sadly, we have seen efforts to block access to voting in states across the country. One important step to improving access to the ballot box is making sure that voter registration is easy and accessible for every citizen,” said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “By automatically and securely registering every eligible voter, we encourage every American to participate in our elections — and that makes our democracy stronger. We commend Rep. Brady and Senators Leahy and Klobuchar for prioritizing voting rights.”