Automatic Voter Registration Fact Sheet

Voter Registration and Turnout

  • 51 million Americans are eligible to vote but are not registered, meaning more than 24% of the eligible population is not registered to vote. [1]

  • 2014 marked the worst voter turnout in 72 years. In 43 states, less than half the eligible population voted, and no state had a turnout rate above 60 percent. [2]

  • In 2012, millions of Americans searched online for information on registering to vote, after the deadline in their state had already passed. Results suggest that extending registration deadlines to Election Day would have resulted in 3-4 million more Americans voting. [3]

  • Those not registered to vote were disproportionately low-income voters, people of color, and younger Americans. Among eligible voters, some 30 percent of African Americans, 40 percent of Hispanics, 45 percent of Asian Americans, and 41 percent of young adults (age 18-24) were not registered to vote in the historic 2008 election. [4]

 

Automatic Voter Registration is Cost Effective

  • The annual county-level cost nationwide for voter registration is estimated to be at least $1 billion, or roughly one-third of the total county-level cost of administering elections. [5]

  • In Maricopa County, Arizona (which includes Phoenix), processing a paper voter registration form costs 83¢, compared to an average of 3¢ for applications received electronically from the DMV or through the online system. [6]

  • Canada with AVR spends only 35 cents per active voter to create and maintain its lists in a federal election year—one-twelfth the cost in the U.S. [7]

  • Canada premiered its new voter database during the 2000 federal election, and since then has saved over $30 million Canadian dollars each election cycle. [8]

 

States with Automatic Voter Registration

  • Oregon, California, and West Virginia are currently the only three states that have enacted automatic voter registration.

  • More than 30 other states plus the District of Columbia have introduced Automatic Voter Registration legislation to their state legislatures to decrease barriers to voting.

  • Oregon transmits data from the DMV to the Secretary of State. The SOS then mails a notice to every eligible new voter telling them they've been registered to vote and giving them the option to opt out, choose a political party, or do nothing. 

  • In California, the opt-out process will take place at the DMV.

  • Oregon began automatically registering voters on January 1, 2016. Prior to implementing AVR, Oregon averaged 2,000 new registered voters per month. In the first two months of 2016, 15,502 new Oregonians were registered because of AVR. That's a 375% increase in the number of new registered voters per month. [9]
  • An estimated 300,000 eligible voters will be added to Oregon’s voter rolls. Nearly 7 million will be added to the rolls in California when they update their license. [10]

 

Countries with Automatic Voter Registration

  • Sweden saw an 82% voter turnout rate in their last election -- almost three times what the US had in 2014.

  • Iceland and Denmark both saw 80% turnout in their last parliamentary elections. Israel saw 76%. [11]

  • In Belgium, as part of their Automatic Voter Registration system, every eligible voter over 18 receives a voting card a few weeks before Election Day with the details of where and when to vote. [12]

  • Iraq began implementing AVR in 2014 and in that election saw 76.81% of the voting age population turn out to vote. They have continued their implementation efforts to reach all Iraqi citizens. [13]

 

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[1] Pew Center on the States, “Inaccurate, Costly, and Inefficient: Evidence That America’s Voter Registration System Needs an Upgrade” (http://www.pewtrusts.org/~/media/legacy/uploadedfiles/pcs_assets/2012/pewupgradingvoterregistrationpdf.pdf)

[2] New York Times, “Worst Turnout in 72 Years” (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/12/opinion/the-worst-voter-turnout-in-72-years.html)

[3] Estimating Voter Registration Deadline Effects with Web Search Data (http://pan.oxfordjournals.org.ezproxy.macalester.edu/content/23/2/225.full)

[4] “2012 Election Lessons Learned” (http://www.demos.org/publication/2012-election-lessons-learned-how-voters-stood-against-suppression-id-and-intimidation)

[5] ACLU Report: The Cost of Modernizing Voter Registration Systems (https://www.aclu.org/sites/default/files/field_document/022415-aclu-voterregcostsonline_0.pdf)

[6] Brennan Center on Voter Registration Modernization (http://www.brennancenter.org/analysis/voter-registration-modernization-states)

[7] Pew Center on the States, “Inaccurate, Costly, and Inefficient...”

[8] From a Brennan Center for Justice Report, "Expanding Democracy: Voter Registration Around the World" (http://www.brennancenter.org/sites/default/files/legacy/publications/Expanding.Democracy.pdf)

[9] Oregon Secretary of State (http://oregonsosblog.us/2016/03/new-oregon-motor-voter-numbers-show-dramatic-increase-in-registered-voters-across-oregon/)

[10] OR: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/oregon-adopts-nations-first-automatic-voter-registration-law/ CA: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/automatic-registration-election-reform_56016face4b0fde8b0cfc85d

[11] IDEA- Voter Turnout (Using VAP statistics) http://www.idea.int/vt/

[12] Wikipedia- Elections in Belgium https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elections_in_Belgium 

[13] International Foundation for Electoral Systems, “Post Election Q&A: Iraq’s 2014 …” http://www.ifes.org/news/post-election-qa-iraqs-2014-council-representatives-elections


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