Executive Summary

While democratic participation can take many forms, including organizing our communities, advocating for issues, and protesting unjust policies and systems, the act of voting is one of the most important tools for ensuring our elected leaders reflect our communities and values and govern in our interests. 

In an inclusive democracy, every single voting-eligible person must have the ability to cast a ballot that counts. Unfortunately, ensuring that every such person can vote remains an elusive goal in our democracy.

The confusing, sometimes onerous process of registering to vote keeps more people from voting than almost any other barrier. Registration barriers do not affect communities equally. Voter registration today, as always, disproportionately blocks Black and brown would-be voters from exercising their fundamental right to vote.

We’re laying out the solution: Universal Voter Registration. Through universal voter registration—in which all eligible people are automatically registered to vote, and those who are not registered when they show up to vote are allowed to do so on-site—registration would no longer serve as a barrier to the right to vote. 

We’ve outlined a comprehensive plan which state and local officials can use to help eliminate the burden of voter registration on citizens and get more people registered to vote. Our proposal explains in detail how states can achieve universal voter registration by doing 3 things: 

  1. Implement a strong system of Automatic Voter Registration;
  2. Institute same-day registration and Election-Day registration for all local, state, and federal elections, including primaries, general elections, and special elections; and
  3. Affirmatively fulfill obligations under the National Voter Registration Act to offer voter registration to residents during transactions at DMVs, public assistance agencies, and agencies providing services to people with disabilities.

Download the full Universal Voter Registration policy proposal to read more

While other factors certainly influence people’s decision and ability to vote, universal voter registration would go a long way toward increasing voter turnout and achieving greater political equality in the United States. To move closer to an inclusive democracy, we need this transformative policy solution.

The Inclusive Democracy Agenda

This policy proposal is one of the six in Demos’ Inclusive Democracy Agenda.

This Agenda advances solutions identified by those closest to the problem of democratic exclusion: communities of color who have been kept from full democratic participation in varying degrees since the founding of the United States. 

Visit the Inclusive Democracy Agenda landing page