DC Council bill makes voter registration automatic

DC Council bill makes voter registration automatic (Sinclair Broadcast Group)

Most of us dread going to the DMV, but the D.C. Council hopes your next trip to renew or update your license might help increase voter turnout.

On Tuesday, Council members unanimously approved legislation making voter registration automatic.

The veto-proof D.C. Council bill is now waiting for Mayor Muriel Bowser's signature. The pending law would automatically send District Department of Motor Vehicles data to the D.C. Board of Elections.

“At a time in our country, when we see states time and time again try to block people from the poll, from the ballot box, I'm really proud that in D.C. we actually are trying to make it easy as possible and get as many people registered to vote as we can,” said Ward 6 Council member Charles Allen who introduced the bill.

Allen said his legislation will also keep voter rolls clean.

“If your contact information, your residency information, isn't up to date with the board of elections, it means you're disenfranchised from being able to sign anything, from a ballot access petition to being able to vote at the correct precinct and then it challenges your ballot. This helps with that,” he said.

This new approach does not mandate that you vote, but if you don't want to be registered, you'll need to opt-out. That is a change from the current system which requires you to opt-in by filling out a board of elections form.

“We're really just flipping the presumption that we want you to be registered to vote,” Allen said.

Most D.C. voters seem to welcome this approach.

“There shouldn't be a requirement that you have to do something extra,” Christine Spencer said.

“It should just be automatic,” added Steven Carrell.

But there is some worry about so-called low information voters and whether registering to vote should take at least a little effort.

“You didn't take the initiative to find out if you're a registered voter, then I'm pretty sure you didn't take the initiative to find out what the issues are,” said Ronald Wright.

But Ricardo Antonio Santiago disagrees.

“I am not going to take away the right from a young person, from 18 and above, because of my opinion being that they don't know what they're doing,” he said.

Allen’s bill won't impact the current election, but D.C. would follow five states with such a law and dramatic increases in voter registration.

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