Democrats won a whole lot of elections in 2022, in no small part on their vow to strengthen and defend democracy. But if they hope to turn the issue into a sustained political winner, they have to deliver on that promise by showing voters what a pro-democracy governing agenda actually looks like.
Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro is set to make a big move in this direction by unveiling a big change on Tuesday that will implement what’s known as “automatic voter registration” statewide.
Automatic registration makes getting on the voter rolls something you have to opt out of, rather than actively sign up for in advance. An underappreciated success story, it has been put into effect in two dozen states, mostly by Democrats. It typically works by automatically registering customers at state Department of Motor Vehicles offices (or other agencies) or by automatically extending them that option, while offering an opt-out alternative.
“I see voter participation as key to strengthening democracy,” Shapiro told me in an interview, noting that he is “committed to ensuring free and fair elections, and to making sure every eligible voter can make their voice heard.”
The insight behind automatic voter registration is that the registration process often creates a bureaucratic barrier that needlessly dissuades voting, and is sometimes manipulated by vote-suppressors. By keeping a registration process in place while removing the need to affirmatively initiate it, studies show, AVR encourages democratic participation. AVR also tends to make voter rolls more accurate and more up to date. [Continue reading…]