So far, Republicans gain most from automatic voter registration
It’s been one month since Pennsylvania implemented automatic voter registration, and early results show three times as many Republicans have used the system to register compared to Democrats.
This is despite some GOP legislators claiming without evidence the new system would lead to an uptick in fraud – and could compromise election security.
But those fears have not materialized in other states such as Oregon and Colorado, which have used automatic registration for years without any instances of widespread fraud.
Oregon started using automatic registration in 2016. Kate Titus, executive director of Common Cause Oregon, said the intent was to modernize voter registration – making it more efficient and convenient for voters.
“We were looking at reducing errors, making it more accurate. So when we were able to reduce the number of handwritten cards that people fill out to start their registration process, the data would get entered into the computers, and then when it’s sent on to the elections division, it wouldn’t be somebody typing something that they’re reading by hand,” Titus explained.
Titus said the system made a noticeable difference quickly, registering more than 100,000 new voters during its first year. She said Oregon now has the highest voter participation rate in the country.
“Definitely the automatic voter registration played into a culture that already encouraged voting and increased that. I have seen some research that showed that it tended to increase voting somewhat of younger people and just the overall diversity of voters, more voters in rural areas,” Titus said.
Titus said there has been no increase in fraud or non-eligible voters since this was implemented. Voters in Oregon are automatically registered when they interact with the Department of Motor Vehicles, but are not affiliated with any party. They then receive a postcard giving them the option to opt out or choose a party. Over time, Oregon has seen an increase in unaffiliated voters.
In Colorado, Secretary of State Jena Griswold said her state rolled out automatic registration in the summer of 2020. Since then, more than 450,000 eligible Coloradans have been registered through the system.
“Under the Colorado AVR system, eligible people who provide identification that shows citizenship at driver’s license offices are automatically registered to vote. So anytime they go in to get a new license or renew their license, they’re then sent a letter informing them that they will be registering or will be registered and offering the option to decline the registration,” Griswold explained.
Griswold emphasized this increases accessibility and she has seen no cases of fraud in Colorado.
“I believe every voter should have access to accessible and secure elections. Automatic voter registration makes registering to vote more accessible for eligible people,” Griswold said.
John Lindback, a former Oregon Director of Elections, says the system dramatically increases voter registration numbers.
“We considered it a victory when Oregon climbed to over two million registered voters. And then in 2023, the Secretary of State’s office has celebrated that there are more than three million registered voters in Oregon. And I can tell you the population has not increased that much,” Lindback said. “Voter registration has increased by a third in Oregon to well over 90%.”
Lindback said the system they use is better than traditional paper forms.
“It’s more secure because people are actually demonstrating that they’re a citizen. It dramatically increases the number of people registered to vote. And historically in this country, there have been barriers to register to vote for certain people, and it no doubt helps eliminate some of those barriers and makes registering to vote less of a chore,” Lindback said.
Griswold said she understands if Pennsylvania voters have questions about the new registration system, but it’s important to avoid propaganda from election deniers.
“When we’re seeing the massive attack on democracy, the attempt from MAGA Republicans to make it as hard to vote as possible, it’s really important that states counterbalance that by opening up access and security,” Griswold said. “And very luckily, automatic voter registration does both of those things: It makes it easier for eligible people to register, and it increases election security.”
While AVR is still new in Pennsylvania, the claims about fraud and security issues have not materialized in the other 23 states using the system smoothly for years.
The deadline to register for this year’s elections is Monday, Oct. 23.