In March 2015, Oregon became the first state to automatically register eligible citizens to vote when they request or renew a driver’s license through the DMV. The Secretary of State's office sends new registrants a card telling them they will be added to the voter rolls if they do not opt out within 21 days. The burden of registration shifts from the individual to the state, resulting in a total of 206,554 new voters joining the rolls after being automatically added during the first seven months following the program's launch in January 2016.
Learn more about Oregon's New Motor Voter Act here.
California became the second state to pass AVR legislation. A key difference involves the timing of the “opt-out” choice. Unlike Oregon’s law, which has no questions about voter registration at the DMV, in California, people will be asked to affirm their eligibility to vote and, if they choose, opt out of registering at that time. Information about anyone who does not opt out of registration will transfer eletronically from the DMV to the Secretary of State’s office. The Secretary of State then verifies new voters' citizenship and adds them to the voter rolls. California estimates that the state has 6.6 million eligible but unregistered voters.
In May 2016, Connecticut became the fifth state to institute automatic voter registration, although unlike Oregon, California, West Virginia, and Vermont, Connecticut will implement its AVR program administratively, rather than passing a law. Secretary of State Denise Merrill worked with Connecticut's DMV to establish a system for sharing data to register new voters when they interact with the DMV. Sec. Merrill estimates that the system will add approximately 400,000 new voters to the voting rolls.
In West Virginia’s Republican-controlled legislature, lawmakers from both sides created a compromise bill that combined a moderate voter-ID law that accepts student IDs, bank statements, health insurance cards, and utility bills favored by Republicans with an AVR system proposed by Democrats. The legislation was signed into law in April 2016.
Just two weeks after West Virginia, Vermont became the fourth state to automatically register voters who apply for a driver’s license or state ID. The legislation passed with near unanimous support through the Vermont House and Senate. While the law will not take effect until after the 2016 elections, state officials estimate that it could add 30,000 to 50,000 voters to the state’s rolls.