New Report Finds Dramatic Increase in Voter Registration For States that Comply with “Motor Voter” Law

Release Date: 
July 7, 2017

Report Recommends Cost-Effective and Voter-Friendly Reforms

New York, NY– Today, Demos released a new report entitled “Accelerating the Vote: How States Are Improving Motor-Voter Registration Under the National Voter Registration Act”. The report profiles seven states that have improved their compliance with the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), the law that requires DMVs to provide access to voter registration when applying for, renewing or updating a driver’s license or state identification card.  The report also describes the impact of reforms on total voter registrations in key states and provides recommendations for voter-friendly and cost-effective reforms for states to employ, including states where compliance is still lagging The states reviewed in this report include Oklahoma, New Jersey, California, Nevada, North Carolina, Alabama, and Connecticut.  The new report demonstrates the efficacy of the motor voter provisions of the NVRA as the Trump administration begins efforts to push states to limit voter access under the NVRA.

The report finds that in states where improvements were made to the Motor Voter program, the monthly average number of voter registration applications produced by the DMV increased dramatically. For example:

  • The average number of registrations per month in Connecticut increased almost tenfold after implementation of motor voter reforms. In the two years before the 2012 election, there were on average 856 registrations per month; after the state’s reforms, that increased to approximately 8,671 per month.
  • In California, where reforms have not yet been completely implemented, the number of voter registration applications originating from the DMV increased to 41,918 per month from April through October 2016, from an average of 27,404 per month in the same period in the 2012 Presidential Election cycle, a 53 percent increase.

“The National Voter Registration Act was enacted to make voter registration more accessible and less complicated for individuals across the country. We are proud of the progress some states have made and are optimistic that after seeing how effective these reforms can be to get more voters on the rolls, more states will seek to comply. For our democracy to thrive, the freedom to vote must be protected for all citizens,” said Stuart Naifeh, Senior Counsel at Demos.

Today’s report marks important progress in the past two years after Demos first spotlighted serious problems with states’ Motor-Voter compliance.  In February 2015, Demos released a report, Driving the Vote: Are States Complying with the “Motor Voter” Requirements of the National Voter Registration Act? The report found that, while some states had robust and effective Motor Voter programs, the majority of states did not, and rates of voter registration through motor vehicle agencies varied dramatically from state to state. In the two years since its publication, through advocacy, demand letters, and litigation, Demos has worked with several states to steps to improve their compliance with the NVRA.

Today’s report updates the conclusions of Driving the Vote in light of these developments and highlights models for more voter-friendly and cost-effective voter registration systems. These recommendations include: re-designing driver’s license application forms to include the voter registration offer – including during change of address; utilizing technology to capture voter registration preferences; electronically transmitting information from the DMV to statewide databases; and integrating voter registration into online DMV services.

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