It wasn't long ago that automatic voter registration was common in many advanced democracies, but not here. Slowly but surely, it's gaining traction in the United States.
The New York Daily News reported yesterday on the latest state to join the growing club.
New York is streamlining voter registration by enacting an automatic process that will add eligible residents to the rolls when they interact with state or local government agencies. The law, signed Tuesday by [Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo], makes it so New Yorkers will automatically be registered or have their voter information updated when they have contact with the government, such as renewing a driver's license through the Department of Motor Vehicles.
The article added that the new policy will be phased in gradually over the next few years. It's expected to add 1 million New Yorkers to the voting rolls.
If the overall tally from the National Conference of State Legislatures is correct, New York is the 20th state, plus the District of Columbia, to adopt AVR.
Not bad for a policy that didn't exist in any state as recently as five years ago.
Revisiting our previous coverage, I've long believed this is a policy that's tough to argue against. When it comes to registering to vote in the United States, the burden has traditionally been on the individual: if you're eligible to vote, it's up to you to take the proactive steps needed to register. Automatic voter registration, which already exists in many of the world's democracies, flips that model.
The idea is exactly what it sounds like: under the policy, states automatically register eligible voters who interact with state agencies, shifting the burden away from the individual. Those who want to withdraw from the system can do so voluntarily without penalty, but otherwise, Americans would simply be added to the voters rolls as a matter of course.
As of today, it's reached 40% of the nation's states. The other 30 states tend to be Republican strongholds, led by GOP officials who are often reluctant to open up the electoral process, but AVR advocates continue to made progress in ways that were tough to predict in the recent past.
Postscript: At the federal level, it's worth noting that automatic voter registration is a key element of the House Democrats' "For the People Act" (H.R. 1), a voting-rights package that cleared the chamber last year. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) refused to let the upper chamber consider the bill, calling it "socialist."