A deep dive on voter registration

Welcome to the Monday, September 25, 2023, Brew. 

Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Pennsylvania becomes 24th state to implement automatic voter registration
  2. A look back at voter registration rates in 2022
  3. A refresher on 2023 voter registration deadlines

Pennsylvania becomes 24th state to implement automatic voter registration

On Sept. 19, Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro (D) announced that the state had implemented automatic voter registration (AVR) for all eligible residents. The governor’s office said Shapiro was implementing the new policy as a procedural change, meaning it did not need legislative approval.

Under the new policy, the state now automatically registers voters when they are getting their driver’s licenses and I.D. cards at the state’s department of transportation driver and photo license centers. Residents may opt out of automatic registration. Previously, Pennsylvania had an “opt-in” system, meaning eligible residents had to apply to register to vote during their visits to these centers.

With Pennsylvania, 24 states and the District of Columbia have now enacted automatic voter registration

In his statement announcing the implementation of AVR, Shapiro said the change was “a commonsense step to ensure election security and save Pennsylvanians time and tax dollars.” 

“Residents of our Commonwealth already provide proof of identity, residency, age, and citizenship at the DMV – all the information required to register to vote — so it makes good sense to streamline that process with voter registration,” Shapiro said. 

House Minority Leader Bryan Cutler (R), meanwhile, criticized Shapiro for using executive guidance to implement the change. “The problem here is not necessarily the end, but the means. … This unilateral action on the eve of what is likely to be a hotly contested and close election will cause many Pennsylvania voters to continue to question the security and results of our system,” Cutler said. 

While the specific language of each state’s policy may vary, under an automatic voter registration system (AVR), eligible voters are automatically registered to vote whenever they interact with government agencies such as a department of motor vehicles. Eligible voters are registered by default, although they may request not to be registered.

California and Oregon were the first states to enact automatic voter registration in 2015. Delaware implemented an automatic voter registration system in June.

Of the 24 states that provide for automatic voter registration:

  • Five states—Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, and Pennsylvania—enacted AVR through administrative rules;
  • Three states—Alaska, Michigan, and Nevada—enacted AVR through ballot measures;
  • 16 states and the District of Columbia enacted AVR through legislation

Fourteen of the states that have implemented automatic voter registration were Democratic trifectas at the time the policy was established. Eight states had divided government, and two states—Georgia and Michigan—were Republican trifectas. 

To learn more about automatic voter registration in the United States, click the link below.

Keep reading

A look back at voter registration rates in 2022 

Every state except North Dakota requires residents to register before they vote. However, voter registration rates differ across states. Let’s look at some stats. 

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Oregon and the District of Columbia had the highest voter registration rates in the country ahead of the 2022 elections, with more than 82% of eligible voters registered. No other states had voter registration rates of more than 80%. 

North Carolina, meanwhile, had the lowest rate, with 61%, followed by Arkansas, with 62%. 

In Pennsylvania, the state we looked at in our previous story, seven million people registered to vote ahead of the November 2022 election, out of 9.7 million eligible residents. That gave the state a 72% voter registration rate, the 22nd-highest out of all 50 states in 2022. 

Despite being the only state that doesn’t require voter registration, North Dakota had a registration rate of 75%, the 10th highest rate in 2022. 

Overall, more than 161 million Americans registered to vote ahead of the 2022 elections, out of 233 million eligible citizens. That was a voter registration rate of 69%, the highest rate for a midterm election since 2000

For a list of 2022 voter registration rates for all 50 states, click the link below. 

Keep reading 

A refresher on 2023 voter registration deadlines 

Finally, let’s look at the registration deadlines for the 2023 statewide elections.

A quick refresher—Pennsylvania is one of eight states that either have or will hold statewide elections this year. Of those, six—Kentucky, Mississippi, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington—are holding general elections on Nov. 7. 

Louisiana is holding a first round of voting on Oct. 14, and a second round, if needed, on Nov. 18. (If you want to learn more about Louisiana’s unique voting system, click here.) Wisconsin, meanwhile, held statewide elections on April 4.

Registration deadlines vary depending on how you register to vote. All eight states allow residents to register by mail or in person, and all but Mississippi allow voters to register online. Let’s look at the earliest and latest voter registration deadlines for each method. 

In-person registration

  • Earliest: Louisiana has the earliest in-person registration deadline. Eligible residents must register to vote 31 days before the general election, although they can register online up to 21 days before the election. 
  • Latest: Washington is the only state out of the eight that allows for same-day registration, so it has the latest deadline. This option exists even though Washington is an all-mail voting state, meaning every registered voter is mailed a ballot each election.

Mail-in registration

  • Earliest: Louisiana’s deadline for an agency to receive a mail-in voting registration form is 31 days before election day, the earliest of all eight states. 
  • Latest: Washington, which allows mail-in registration up to eight days before the election, has the latest deadline.

Online registration

  • Earliest: Kentucky requires eligible voters to register 28 days before the election, the earliest of all eight states..
  • Latest: Washington allows online registration up to eight days before election day.

The chart below shows all eight states holding statewide elections in 2023 and their voter registration deadlines relative to the general election date. 

The table below shows each state holding statewide elections in 2023 and their general election registration deadlines by method. This table also includes deadlines for Mississippi’s general election runoffs and Louisiana’s two rounds of voting.

Click the link below to learn more about voter registration deadlines in 2023. 

Keep reading