IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Automatic voter registration advances in key state

The opt-out, rather than an opt-in, model of voter registration is starting to catch on.
Voting booths await voters in Red Oak, Iowa, Tuesday, June 3, 2014, ahead of the Iowa primary elections.
Voting booths await voters in Red Oak, Iowa, Tuesday, June 3, 2014, ahead of the Iowa primary elections.
It's been about six months since Oregon flipped the traditional model for voter registration on its head. Though the trend in recent years has shown some Republican state policymakers making registration more difficult in many states, Gov. Kate Brown (D) and the Democratic-led legislature made Oregon the nation's first state with an opt-out, rather than an opt-in, model.
For years, the burden has been on the individual -- if you’re eligible to vote, it’s up to you to take the affirmative steps needed to register. Oregon, however, embraced automatic voter registration, though anyone who wants to withdraw from the system voluntarily is free to do so.
The L.A. Times reported over the weekend that a neighboring state is moving forward with the same model.

California lawmakers on Friday approved a bill that would automatically register to vote any eligible Californian who gets a driver's license or state identification card -- unless the person opts out. [...] Nearly 7 million Californians, mostly young people, are eligible, but not registered, to vote. In an effort to boost the number, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) introduced a bill modeled on a new law in Oregon to get more people to the polls.

MSNBC's Zack Roth reported the other day that Gov. Jerry Brown (D) has not yet taken a position on the bill, though proponents are cautiously optimistic.
Given California's size and population, this represents a major step forward for the entire idea of automatic voter registration, and there's ample reason to believe the progress will spread. Roth's report added:

Automatic voter registration is fast gaining traction in blue states as a way to expand access to voting, after record low turnout in last fall’s midterms. In March, Oregon became the first state to enact the reform, prompting legislators in 17 states, plus the District of Columbia and both houses of the U.S. Congress, to introduce similar bills. It gained further momentum in June when Hillary Clinton backed the idea in a major campaign speech on voting rights.

The Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU School of Law has a breakdown of each of the pending efforts at the state level.