Gov. Josh Shapiro announced this morning that Pennsylvania has implemented automatic voter registration (AVR) for eligible Commonwealth residents obtaining driver licenses and ID cards at Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) driver and photo license centers.
By implementing AVR, Pennsylvania joins a group of 23 states with leaders from both parties – including Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Georgia, Virginia, and West Virginia – who have taken this step to promote election security and save taxpayers time and money.
“Now when you go to the DMV to get a driver’s license, renew your driver’s license, you’ll be able to automatically get registered to vote unless you choose to opt out,” said Shapiro on “Morning Joe.” “There’s about 1.7 million Pennsylvanians who are eligible to vote but aren’t registered. This is a safe, secure, streamlined way to be able to get them to register and get them to participate in our democracy.”
Starting today, Commonwealth residents who are obtaining new or renewed driver licenses and ID cards and are eligible to vote will be automatically taken through the voter registration application process unless they opt out of doing so. Previously, eligible voters were required to take additional steps to opt into the voter registration process. Today’s changes also increase access to voter registration by adding instructions in additional languages, for a total of 31 languages.
“Secretary of State (Al Schmidt) believes that we’ll have 10s of 1000s of new registrants in the first year,” Shapiro continued. “We’ll certainly track it and see how it goes. The key issue here is we need people to participate in our democracy. That’s what strengthens it. I’ve spent my career fighting to defend the right to vote as Attorney General and of course as a candidate for governor, I made a commitment that I would enact automatic voter registration here in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. And so I’m proud that on this national voter registration day, we’re making good on that promise, and we’re making sure more eligible voters can participate in our great democracy.”
“Registering eligible Commonwealth residents to vote during their visits to driver and photo license centers is a commonsense action,” Schmidt said. “The voter is already in a state government facility with their identification documentation in hand, and they will have their picture taken and sign their name electronically. Having all of that happen at the same time means the verification process is extremely secure and makes the registration process more efficient.”
According to a press release from the Governor’s office, “in other states, automatic voter registration has been shown to streamline the registration process for military families, who tend to move more often than other Americans. Automatically updating their voter registration information during their PennDOT visits will ensure that these families can continue to participate in the democracy they work so hard to defend.
“AVR also reduces paper application processing burdens on county elections professionals. Electronic registrations recorded during driver’s license center interactions are more secure and take a fraction of the time to process.
“For local election officials, receiving automatic updates when residents obtain new identification – which residents often do when they change their name or address – will enhance efforts continuously underway to maintain the accuracy of Pennsylvania’s voter rolls.”
“Automatic voter registration is a streamlined, safe and secure way to make sure only eligible voters get to participate in our process,” said Shapiro. “Consider this when you go to the DMV, you have to provide all kinds of personal information in order to get a driver’s license. And it’s the same information you need to be able to provide in order to register to vote. So it just makes sense.
“It’s common sense to use that platform to be able to engage folks who are eligible to vote to register them. We know it is a safe and secure way to do it. And we also believe it is going to increase voter participation. And when you increase voter participation, at least you strengthen our democracy.”
As of December 2022, approximately 8.7 million Pennsylvanians were registered to vote; according to U.S. Census estimates, more than 10.3 million Commonwealth residents are eligible to register.
“This improvement in Pennsylvania’s voting system is a tremendous step forward and a testament to every civil and voting rights leader who has marched, raised their voice, and fought for a system that includes all Americans, including Black and Brown individuals or those who may feel intimidated to get involved,” said state Sen. Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia). “We are better and stronger when we bring all voices and perspectives to the table.”
“With more than 1.2 million people eligible to vote but unregistered in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, today’s announcement will undoubtedly help to close the voter registration gap, especially in communities of color
where the gap is the most pronounced,” the New Pennsylvania Project voting rights organization said in a statement.
To be eligible to register to vote, applicants must:
- Be a U.S. citizen for at least 30 days before the next election,
- Be a resident of Pennsylvania and their election district for at least 30 days before the next election, and
- Be at least 18 years old on the date of the next election.
More information about voter registration and eligibility is available at vote.pa.gov/register.