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Contact: Abigail Leong
Washington Upgrades Automatic Voter Registration
State Lawmakers Pass Senate Bill 5112 to Make Registration Truly Automatic at the DMV
OLYMPIA, Wash. – On Friday, state lawmakers passed Senate Bill 5112, which makes voter registration truly automatic for Washingtonians applying for enhanced driver’s licenses. Instead of asking applicants about voter registration during their visit to the DMV, Washington will now automatically register voters who provide a document proving their US citizenship. Voters will then receive a notice by mail giving them the option to opt out. This change has increased voter registration in other states, and has the added benefit of protecting non-citizens from accidentally attempting to register to vote.
“Our democracy is at its best when every Washingtonian’s voice is heard, but there are still almost one million eligible Washingtonians who are not registered to vote,” said Rep. Tarra Simmons, the bill’s House sponsor. “This bill removes barriers to registering to vote, improving voting access for everyone, but especially people of color and low-income people. I am proud that Washington continues to push toward a more representative democracy.”
Colorado, Oregon, Alaska, Nevada, Massachusetts, and Delaware have adopted this improved automatic voter registration process, which has increased the number of voters getting registered. Of the many new voters brought into our democracy through automatic registration, only a small percentage opt out by mail afterwards.
“Current Washington voters and those eligible to register all benefit from this milestone legislation for election access,” said Secretary of State Steve Hobbs. “Democracy will be improved with voter registration for Washingtonians who prove eligibility while signing up for enhanced driver licenses and identification cards, eliminating a procedural barrier to making their voices heard. Every voter will have better reasons to trust state elections, because this improvement ensures up-to-date voter rolls and safeguards against improper registrations.”
One other benefit to this new system is its protections for people in the immigration process. People without citizenship will now not be asked to register to vote, protecting families from issues with their immigration process that could result from mistakes on the current voter registration question.
“Making voter registration truly automatic will not only lower barriers to voting; it will ensure that only qualified individuals are registered,” said Sen. Sam Hunt, the bill’s Senate sponsor. “This new law will increase voter registration and election participation in Washington as we move toward getting every eligible person registered to vote. With passage of SB 5112, Washington state remains at the national forefront of voter access, making voting easy, secure, and accurate.”
Advocates from the Washington Voting Justice Coalition successfully championed automatic voter registration in 2018. Now, we applaud our lawmakers for continuing our state’s legacy as a leader in voting rights and ensuring that as many voters as possible are ready to make their voices heard in the years to come.
The WA Voting Justice Coalition is a group of community organizations and individuals, dedicated to voting rights and access in Washington State. We believe that the vote is our tool, as ordinary people, to have a voice in our government. Website: wavotingjustice.org