摘要: As recently as 2015, automatic voter registration did not exist in the United States. Yet today, 16 states plus the District of Columbia have enacted (though in several cases, not yet implemented) some version of AVR.

 


Almost overnight, it has become a core part of the agenda for those who want to make it easier for more people to vote. This year alone, AVR bills have been introduced in 39 states.1 Where they can’t convince the legislature, AVR advocates sometimes take their case to the people — Alaska, Michigan and Nevada have all enacted the policy via ballot measure. And someday, AVR could become a national mandate: It was a centerpiece of H.R. 1, the voting-rights bill passed earlier this year by the newly Democratically controlled U.S. House of Representatives.

AVR is meant to help people register to vote without needing to remember to do so — states just automatically register eligible citizens whenever they first interact with a government agency, usually the Department of Motor Vehicles, though some states include other agencies as well. Say you’re in California and you’re renewing your driver’s license. Unless you opt out, you’re going to be on a voter roll by the time you leave the DMV. AVR proponents say this can inject thousands of new voters into the electorate and help achieve near-universal voter registration.

That logic assumes, though, that being unregistered is the main thing that stops some people from voting. There’s another option: that unregistered people are mostly those who were never going to vote anyway. If that’s the case, turnout wouldn’t change much no matter how many more people got registered.

To find out whether states that automatically register voters saw an increase in electoral participation, FiveThirtyEight collected registration and turnout statistics from all eight jurisdictions that implemented AVR in time for the 2018 general election (Alaska, California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Georgia, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont). To our knowledge, this is the first time this data has been made public for multiple states, and therefore the first opportunity to see how registration trends changed.

Our analysis shows that people who were registered through AVR do vote — but not necessarily at the same rate as those who register themselves. Let’s run through the numbers:

●From the day they first implemented AVR through their 2018 voter-registration deadline,2 those eight places automatically registered around 2.2 million new voters. (Although, as we’ll talk about in a minute, some of those voters surely would have registered without AVR.)

●As many as 6 million existing voters who interacted with a government agency had their voter registrations automatically updated — for example, by replacing an outdated address.

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Full Text: FiveThirtyEight

 

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