Activists in Clark County and across the state are preparing for a new push to enact automatic voter registration in Washington either in the upcoming legislative session or through a ballot initiative next year. If adopted, the state would automatically register voters who prove their eligibility when they interface with government offices, such as getting an enhanced driver’s license. Proponents say it not only increases voter turnout and engagement but also streamlines the process. “The idea, from our perspective, is to make voting as easy as possible,” said Alice Perry Linker, a volunteer with an informal group of that’s supporting the effort. “It’s a right that all citizens have and we want to make it easy for them.”
It’s already been embraced by Oregon and California, which both adopted laws in 2015 that automatically registered eligible citizens to vote when applying for driver’s licenses or ID cards. It’s still being implemented in California, but Oregon saw over a quarter-million people registered within nine months of the law going into effect.
According to numbers from the Washington Secretary of State, the percentage of the voting age population that’s registered to vote has been on the decline. In 1972, 85.6 percent were registered. In 2016, that number dropped to 76.8 percent.
During the last two legislative sessions, automatic voter registration legislation was introduced but failed to advance out of committee.