Fill in the blanks below for an op-ed on automatic voter registration.
CHOOSE one of the following for the first paragraph:
- [Start with a brief story about voter registration from your state.]
- [Iris Hodge is a single mother from Portland, Oregon. For Hodge, rent increases and job changes have meant moving frequently - approximately every two years. Taking care of her family leaves Hodge little time for worrying about a complicated voter registration process every time she moves, and she isn’t alone. About 29,000 people in Oregon could not vote in the 2008 and 2012 elections because they registered to vote after the registration deadline. “Between my busy work schedule and caring for my son I could easily imagine myself forgetting to update my registration with my new address,” Hodge said. “[Automatic voter registration] would ensure my voice is heard.”]
Automatic Voter Registration is an innovative system that registers voters electronically with data from the Department of Motor Vehicles, streamlining the registration process and reaching a greater number of people who are eligible to vote. Five states - Oregon, California, West Virginia, Vermont, and Connecticut - have passed “New Motor Voter” laws, and early reports show significant increases in the number of registered voters and in voter participation. Several states, including [State Name], are working toward passing automatic voter registration. New Motor Voter laws are an important piece of a growing movement in states across the country to modernize and expand access to the ballot box.
Strong civic engagement is the bedrock of our democracy; without it, the political process that ensures our voices are heard is missing a critical piece. In the 2014 election cycle, voter participation dropped to 36%, the lowest since World War II. According to Pew, in the U.S., 65% of people who are eligible to vote are registered, compared with 96% in Sweden and 93% in the U.K. To encourage more people to participate, we need to register more people to vote - in 2014, 90% of registered voters actually voted, so we know registration and voting are connected.
In [State Name], [Number of Unregistered Citizens] eligible citizens cannot exercise their voice because they are not registered to vote. Modernizing our elections and shifting the responsibility of protecting and expanding voting rights from the individual to the state will dramatically increase the likelihood that those [Number of Unregistered Citizens] will participate in our elections. The benefits of automatic voter registration are particularly striking for young people. In Oregon, just over 50% of new voters were between 18 and 35 years old, and young people registered through the Oregon Motor Voter program voted in the 2016 Oregon primary at similar or higher rates than young people registered through traditional methods.
Historically, voter registration has acted as a barrier to the fundamental right to vote; in [State Name], automatic voter registration could transform voter registration into an opportunity for all our citizens to participate in the political process. Together, we can bring our elections into the 21st century, and it is urgent that we do. Corporate and special interests are working to enact barriers to voting that silence our voices and disproportionately affect minorities, young people, and other vulnerable populations. Some states are cutting back on measures like early and absentee voting and same-day registration and moving our country backward with laws designed to make voting harder, not easier. Nationwide, the Brennan Center for Justice estimates approximately 50 million eligible Americans remain unregistered to vote, and approximately 24 million registrations contain errors or outdated information that bar registered voters from the ballot box. A wealthy few would rather keep 74 million eligible Americans from voting; in [State Name], we must stand together to move our democracy forward, not back.
States and state legislatures across the country are moving automatic voter registration forward because it works. During Oregon Motor Voter’s first seven months, the Oregon Secretary of State reported 206,554 residents registered to vote using the program. The Elections Division sent an average of 831 new voter registration cards per day - before the automatic voter registration, Oregon registered only 2,023 new voters per month. In Vermont, state officials estimate that automatic voter registration could add as many as 50,000 new voters, and in California, state officials estimate that the New Motor Voter Act could reach about 6.6 million unregistered citizens are eligible to vote.
We already know we can succeed. In the face of these attacks on our democracy, a record-breaking 1.2 million people voted in Oregon’s primary because of the stunning success of Oregon Motor Voter. [State Name] can lead the charge to break records in every election and every state until every voice is heard. Automatic Voter Registration is a crucial first step in building a government that works for all of us, in our state and across the nation, and the people of [State Name] are determined to take it.