America's hearing two different stories, and each has a point.
NOT ENOUGH VOTING...
25% of America's eligible voters aren't registered.
The US is the only G20 country that puts the burden of registration on citizens.
Handwriting, disorganization and sabotage can all result in a paper form not being processed.
Voters who move don't stay registered.
States use CrossCheck, and infrequent voter purges, to correct voter roll inaccuracies. Both methods are wildly inaccurate.
ID's can be hard to obtain, and even "free" ID costs $75-175 in travel, fees, and lost work time.
How do we ensure that ALL eligible voters have a chance to vote, without having to struggle so hard?
OR TOO MUCH?
1 in 8 voter record is outdated.
Most voters who move and reregister don't tell their old Board of Elections that they're gone, which causes duplicate registration.
The Board of Elections can't easily check to ensure that dead voters, and voters who have moved, are removed from the rolls.
Paper registrations, due to mistakes, voter confusion, can result in non-citizens being registered. It's rare - the cost (prosecution) is too high, vs. a very low return (one extra vote). Still: why not eliminate this possibility?
How do we create truly accurate and secure voter rolls, ensuring that ONLY eligible voters are on the rolls?
AUTOMATIC VOTER REGISTRATION:
All eligible voters on the rolls + only eligible voters are on the rolls.
The reason American voter rolls are so inaccurate: we expect voters to update them. In nearly every other country in the world, the State registers voters, and keeps them registered using information it already has. State agencies like the RMV, and MassHealth, already have voter contact data that's far more accurate than what the Board of Election's. They update much more frequently, and they more rigorously check whether or not someone's a citizen. So when these two agencies skim off the voter contact data they have, and send it over to the Board of Elections, our voter rolls become far more accurate. 10 states, including Illinois, Alaska, West Virginia, (plus D.C.) have passed AVR. In Oregon, the first state that enacted AVR, 265,000 inaccuracies in the rolls were corrected in the first year.
How it works for voters: When you interact with the RMV or with MassHealth, instead of being asked, Do you want to register to vote?, you'll be asked, Would you like to decline to register to vote? If you do nothing, you'll be registered to vote. You then get two more notices that let them know that if you do nothing, you'll be registered to vote. Both the RMV and MassHealth have a far higher standard of documentary proof, so the voter contact data they have is far more accurate. When they transmit it to the Central Voter Registry, and update monthly, our voter rolls become far more accurate. (AVR doesn't change what information the Central Registry collects -- it simply makes the voter contact data at the Board of Elections more accurate. )
Voters are asked on the front-end to document citizenship, and are asked whether they want to register. Then, they get two further notices by mail, that offer the chance to decline or correct their status.
AVR saves town clerks time, because the information they access is more accurate. And AVR implementation and training is fully funded, too: MA still has $43M from the Help America Vote Act, which can be used for no other purpose than election modernization.
Our MA bill also joins us to ERIC, the Electronic Registration Information Center. ERIC is a 20-member interstate comparison program developed by the non-partisan foundation, the Pew Charitable Trust, that both anonymizes and encrypts data, to create a far higher degree of accuracy than CrossCheck, the program it replaces. To learn more, visit ERIC.