Oregon’s New Motor Voter law empowered more than a quarter-million voters in its first nine months. Six states plus Washington, DC, are now implementing automatic voter registration, including Alaska, which approved it by a landslide in November. Evergreen State readers may be wondering: What about Washington? Can’t we do that, too? Yes. But it’s complicated. The number of voting-age Washingtonians who are not registered to vote has grown steadily in the past few decades. Although more voters registered in 2016, nearly 1.3 million voting-age adults in Washington remain unregistered. Adding them to voter rolls once they prove their citizenship would ensure they receive mail-in ballots and can vote in future elections. Most registered voters cast ballots only some of the time, which is their choice. When Oregon introduced its automatic registration system this year, about a quarter of the automatically registered newcomers to the rolls cast ballots in November’s US election.
Oregon and other states with automatic voter registration are registering citizens who document their citizenship to receive a driver license or ID card. Washington is unusual among states. It does not require documentation of legal presence in the United States to get a standard driver license or ID card, although it does offer an enhanced driver license and ID. To get those, which residents will need starting in early 2018 to take domestic flights (unless they want to carry passports to the airport every time they fly), residents have to prove citizenship. Because only a small share of licensed drivers have chosen to get enhanced licenses and IDs, advocates and legislators have considered using other agencies that verify citizenship, such as the the Economic Services Administration and the Health Benefit Exchange, to automatically register people to vote.
How many unregistered citizens could each of these agencies register, if a state Automatic Voter Registration law cleared the legislature or won approval at the ballot?