On Thursday, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker (R) signed automatic voter registration into law, making the Bay State the 14th state to adopt policy automatically registering voters.
The state legislature passed the bill that would automatically add voters to the rolls if they either updated their drivers’ licenses or enrolled in MassHealth — the Commonwealth’s statewide health insurance program — meaning approximately 700,000 more residents will now be registered to vote in time for the 2020 presidential primaries, according to the ACLU’s calculations.
“Voting should be simple, accessible, and protected, especially in light of national efforts to limit access to the polls,” Massachusetts ACLU executive director Carol Rose stated after Gov. Baker signed the bill into law.
According to a map by Daily Kos Elections’ Stephen Wolf, Massachusetts is the 11th state to implement the policy in full, though partial automatic voter registration is available in three more states – Colorado, Connecticut, and Georgia.
BREAKING: Massachusetts just passed automatic voter registration! GOP Gov. Charlie Baker signed a law that had passed the Dem-run legislature nearly unanimously. Here are all the states where automatic registration is law or could pass it via initiative: https://t.co/0Mjee1Z1WM pic.twitter.com/uH27UvGhFh
— Stephen Wolf (@PoliticsWolf) August 9, 2018
In Georgia, for example, residents can be automatically registered to vote whenever updating their records at the Department of Driver Services (the state’s equivalent of the Department of Motor Vehicles) and have to “opt-out” of being on the voter rolls rather than opt in. And technically, North Dakota also counts, as the state does not require voters to register before casting a ballot.
Automatic voter registration is proven to increase voter turnout. In 2015, Oregon became the first state in the country to officially adopt the policy, adding more than 225,000 new voters to the rolls. The following year, roughly 100,000 of those new voters cast a ballot in the presidential election according to the New York Times, meaning 43 percent of the new voters registered came to the polls.
Automatic voter registration can also be seen as a way for Democrats to combat Republican efforts to remove voters from the rolls, as they’ve successfully done through controversial policies like voter ID laws and Interstate Voter Cross Check. While Massachusetts has long since been a safe blue state in presidential elections, Nevada — a traditionally purple state — will have automatic voter registration on the November ballot.
Jake Shepherd is a freelance writer from Cleveland, Ohio. He enjoys poring through financial disclosure statements, spirited debate, and good scotch. He remains eternally optimistic about the Browns. Email him at jake.d.shepherd.21 (at) hotmail (dot) com.