Automatic Voter Registration

In 2018, Nevadans will have the opportunity to enact automatic voter registration legislation at the polls. Citizens would be automatically registered to vote when they submit an application for a driver’s license or citizen identification card. While this piece of legislation passed during the 2017 Nevada Legislative Session, Gov. Brian Sandoval declined to sign it into law. So, now, it will head to the people of Nevada for a decision.

From the Reno Gazette-Journal:

Currently, people have the option to register to vote when visiting the DMV. The initiative before the Legislature would alter that to an opt-out system, where people decline to register instead.

The Assembly Committee on Legislative Operations and Elections approved the measure Thursday [2/16/17] along party lines with Democrats voting in favor by a 7-4 split.

The proposal still has a long way to go before it reaches Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval’s desk. Because it is a voter-initiated petition and not a piece of legislation, lawmakers have 40 days from the start of session to pass it through both chambers. Otherwise, it will go to voters as a ballot question in 2018.

The state of Oregon enacted an opt-out voter registration system in 2016, and saw improved turnout rates during the November 2016 election, according to an article in The New York Times:

Under a first-in-the-nation law that went into effect at the start of the year, Oregon automatically registered more than 225,000 residents based on interactions with the state’s department of motor vehicles, such as obtaining or renewing a driver’s license. Of those, nearly 100,000 voted last month, a turnout rate of 43 percent, more than half the 80 percent rate among all registered voters in the state.

The Oregon law — the first “automatic voter registration” policy to be tested in an election — is notable for a subtle innovation: It is opt-out, not opt-in. Rather than ask eligible residents to take an action like checking a box to register to vote, residents are automatically registered when they apply for, renew or replace a drivers’ license, ID card or permit at the state Driver and Motor Vehicle Services Division.