Pennsylvania Is Now An Automatic Voter Registration State

Democratic Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro announced Tuesday that unless they deliberately opt out, eligible residents of the key battleground state will now be automatically registered to vote when they obtain or renew their driver’s license or ID, a step that voting rights groups applauded as a win for democracy—and an important counter to right-wing election deniers.

An estimated 8.7 million Pennsylvanians were registered to vote last year but more than 10.3 million were eligible to register, a gap that Shapiro said automatic voter registration (AVR) could help to fill by removing unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles.

Pennsylvania is the birthplace of our democracy, and as governor, I’m committed to ensuring free and fair elections that allow every eligible voter to make their voice heard,” said Shapiro, who timed the announcement to coincide with National Voter Registration Day. “Automatic voter registration is a commonsense step to ensure election security and save Pennsylvanians time and tax dollars.”

“Residents of our Commonwealth already provide proof of identity, residency, age, and citizenship at the DMV—all the information required to register to vote—so it makes good sense to streamline that process with voter registration,” he added. “My administration will keep taking innovative actions like this one to make government work better and more efficiently for all Pennsylvanians.”

As The Washington Post‘s Greg Sargent noted in a column Tuesday, the governor’s move comes as the Pennsylvania GOP “continues to elevate election deniers to positions of local importance, in effect feeding doubts about the state’s voting system itself.”

Shapiro defeated election denier Doug Mastriano, who was endorsed by former President Donald Trump, in Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial race last year.

“If automatic voter registration is well received in Pennsylvania, it could act as an antidote to that MAGA mania,” Sargent argued. “That’s because efforts to weaken public confidence in elections often seek to exploit existing public beliefs that the system is cumbersome and prone to human error and hacking, even if those beliefs are wrong. If automatic registrationcan make the voter rolls more accurate and make the system of enrollment and registration more efficient and user-friendly, that could make voters less susceptible to that sort of demagoguery.”

Shapiro’s office pointed to a 2021 study by the Public Policy Institute of California showing that early state adopters of AVR have seen significant boosts to registration and higher voter turnout.

With Pennsylvania included, two dozen U.S. states and Washington, D.C. have implemented some form of AVR, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Kadida Kenner, CEO of the New Pennsylvania Project (NPP), celebrated Shapiro’s announcement as a step that “will undoubtedly help to close the voter registration gap, especially in communities of color where the gap is most pronounced.”

NPP looks forward to continuing our year-round work of civic education, voter registration, mobilization, and advocating for additional necessary steps to improve Pennsylvanians’ access to democracy such as same-day voter registration and true early voting,” Kenner added.

Republished from Common Dreams under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0).

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