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Pros and Cons of Automatic Voter Registration

2 min read
Good Party Politics Team · Feb 29, 2024

Automatic voter registration (AVR) is a system that automatically registers eligible persons to vote when they interact with specific government agencies like the Social Security Administration (SSA) or the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Automatic voter registration seeks to improve voter participation and voter turnout statistics, modernize and streamline the registration process, and enhance the security and accuracy of voter records.

Automatic voter enrollment comes in two primary types: front-end AVR and back-end AVR. While front-end AVR requires citizens to voluntarily accept to be registered, back-end AVR registers citizens by default unless they opt out. Both front-end and back-end AVR update and validate voter records using pre-existing data from government databases.

States with Automatic Voter Registration

There are 24 states and the District of Columbia that have adopted voter registration automation:

  • Alaska

  • California

  • Colorado

  • Connecticut

  • Delaware

  • Georgia

  • Hawaii

  • Illinois

  • Maine

  • Maryland

  • Massachusetts

  • Michigan

  • Minnesota

  • Nevada

  • New Jersey

  • New Mexico

  • New York

  • Oregon

  • Pennsylvania

  • Rhode Island

  • Vermont

  • Virginia

  • Washington

  • West Virginia

  • District of Columbia

In these states, either front-end AVR or back-end AVR is used. The goal of both automatic voter registration systems is to improve voter registration accessibility, election participation rates, and convenience for both the voter and election officials during election administration. 

Benefits and Drawbacks of Automatic Voter Registration

Voter registration automation has many benefits and drawbacks that affect both citizens and election officials. Here are the main pros and cons of automatic voter registration:

Benefits of AVR

  • Accessibility and Convenience: For eligible citizens, AVR lowers the expenses and obstacles associated with voter registration, increasing accessibility and convenience. By lowering these barriers, automatic voter registration can make it easier for more voters to participate in elections.

  • Increased Voter Registration: AVR raises the number of citizens who are registered to vote, particularly among underrepresented demographics including young people, people of color, and those from low-income backgrounds.

  • Increased Voter Turnout: Automatic voter registration has been found to increase voter turnout, as it reduces barriers to voting.

  • Security and Accuracy: By removing duplicate records, updating citizen data, and confirming voter eligibility, AVR increases the security and accuracy of voter rolls. 

  • Increased Efficiency: By decreasing the workload and problems related to processing voting registration applications, AVR saves election authorities money and resources over time. 

Drawbacks of AVR

  • Potential Resistance: AVR may meet legal and political resistance as it seeks to change the current laws and standards of voter registration in some states. Some opponents may argue that AVR will benefit one political party over another.

  • Privacy Concerns: Automatic voter registration may raise concerns about voter registration data security and privacy by exposing voter information to malicious or unauthorized use.

  • Startup Costs: While AVR can save election officials money over time, switching from manual to automatic voter registration requires investing in certain startup costs.

  • Need for Collaboration: Automatic voter registration may necessitate coordination and collaboration between several government agencies and stakeholders in order to implement potentially complex adjustments to the current election procedures.

To summarize, implementing automatic voter registration has a number of advantages and disadvantages. 

Switching to AVR can be an effective way to increase voter turnout, improve the accuracy of voter rolls, and make it easier for citizens to participate in the democratic process. On the other hand, states considering the switch to automatic voter registration must be aware of the potential for political resistance, privacy concerns, and the logistical and monetary challenges of altering the election system.

Impact on Voter Participation and Turnout

By boosting the number of registered voters and making it easier for people to cast ballots, automatic voter registration has had a beneficial effect on voter turnout statistics.

The Brennan Center for Justice has reported that among states that adopted AVR between 2012 and 2018, voter registration increased in varying degrees:

  • In Washington, D.C., voter registration increased by 9.4%.

  • In Oregon, voter registration increased by 15.9%.

  • In Colorado, voter registration increased by 16%.

  • In California, voter registration increased by 26.8%.

  • In Alaska, voter registration increased by 33.7%.

  • In Rhode Island, voter registration increased by 47.4%.

  • In Vermont, voter registration increased by 60.2%.

  • In Georgia, voter registration increased by 93.7%.

In all of these states, the increase in voter registration means that voters moved one step closer toward participating in elections and increasing voter turnout.

For instance, Vermont was the second state to implement AVR, putting the policy into action in 2017. Between 2017 and 2019, an average of 427 voters registered or updated their voter registration status every week, indicating the impressive impact of automatic voter registration on voter participation. 

Since voter registration automation strategies enhance citizens’ ability to exercise their right to vote and influence policy, they can also promote social trust, political awareness, and voter engagement.

Join the Movement for Electoral Reform

Automatic voter registration has proved to be an effective form of electoral reform for many states. By making it easier for voters to participate in elections, AVR is a compelling strategy for encouraging higher voter turnout and making our democracy more truly representative.

Passionate about electoral reform? Explore more information on electoral reform here, or learn how you can make a difference in your state by volunteering in support of reform-minded candidates.


Electoral Reform
Voter Education
By Good Party Politics Team
The politics team is focused on transforming the political landscape by promoting transparency, accountability, and positive change. They aim to engage citizens in the political process, encourage informed decision-making, and support candidates who prioritize the common good. Their mission revolves around creating a more fair and just political system, fostering collaboration, and breaking down traditional barriers of partisanship.