University of Wisconsin–Madison

Automatic Voter Registration

Type Policy Brief or Report
Year 2017
Level County
State(s) All States
Policy Areas Civil Rights, Democracy & Governance, Economic Justice
Our registration and voting system generally works well, but in the age of computers, modernizing our outdated, paper-based voter registration system is just common sense. A system of automatic voter registration (AVR) is a small but important change that would replace our current paper-based voter registration system with an electronic process in which states would automatically identify and register all eligible citizens when they have their driver's license or other state I.D. issued or renewed. If they prefer not to be registered to vote, citizens would be able to opt out either at the time of registration or afterward when they receive their registration confirmation in the mail. And, just as now, any person may cancel his or her registration at any time. An AVR system also creates a secure voter registration database to make it easier for election officials to identify and correct potential errors, and since a voter's address would be updated regularly, it would move with the voter when he or she changes addresses. This proposal will protect the fundamental right of eligible citizens, who can sometimes find it a challenge to keep their registration updated, to participate in our democracy and have their vote counted - like those in the military who move frequently or face deployment. Moreover, tens of thousands of paper voter registrations are processed every year, and each one costs almost 30 times more than an electronic registration. So a paperless AVR system would save dollars for taxpayers, which is particularly important in this era of perennially tight state budgets.

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