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Press release/statement

New Report, Experts Available on Successes and Challenges of Motor Voter Law at 20th Anniversary

New York, NY – As Coloradans celebrate the expansion of their freedom to vote and North Carolinians fight to protect theirs, national public policy institute Demos will mark the 20th Anniversary of the passage of the National Voter Registration Act, better known as the “Motor Voter” law on Monday, May 20th by releasing a new report analyzing its impact. Since the 1993 passage of the landmark legislation, which was the first President Bill Clinton signed into law, millions of Americans have applied to register or re-register to vote under its DMV, public assistance agency, and mail-in provisions, making it the most significant rollback of barriers to the ballot since the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

The Demos report “Registering Millions: The Success and Potential of the National Voter Registration Act at 20,” by Senior Policy Analyst Mijin Cha, measures the law’s impact in increasing voter registration, particularly among low-income Americans, on whom restrictive state registration laws had put the largest burden. Demos also examines challenges that have had to be overcome in order to achieve the full promise of the NVRA. In particular, the report describes the work done by Demos and other groups to improve states’ poor implementation of the provisions for registration at public assistance agencies in recent years. It demonstrates how legal intervention in over a dozen states has furthered the greater potential of the law and helped almost 2 million low-income Americans apply to register to vote.

“Many of us take accessible voter registration for granted but prior to the National Voter Registration Act, it was often too difficult or confusing. Many states still greatly restricted the hours and locations where eligible people could register and refused to accept mail-in applications, making voter registration drives difficult or impossible,” said Brenda Wright, Vice President of Legal Strategies at Demos. “Expanding the number of ways to register has expanded the freedom to vote for millions of Americans already. If we meet the country’s obligation to fully implement the NVRA, millions more will have the opportunity to register and vote.”

The report, which will be presented at a Capitol Hill event on Monday, includes:

  • Registration trends since 1972, including changes in registration rates by income.
  • Bi-annual NVRA registration application numbers since the law’s implementation as well as data on increased registrations in specific states after legal intervention. 
  • Analysis of current implementation and Supreme Court challenges.
  • Policy recommendations to strengthen the NVRA as well as broader proposals to further ensure the ballot is free, fair, and accessible for every eligible American. 

Visuals: Sharable infographics and a video interview with Frances Fox Piven, Distinguished Professor, City University of New York, and a leader of the movement to pass the NVRA.

To receive an advance copy of the report or to speak with Demos legal experts, who have advocated and litigated for full implementation, please contact Lauren Strayer, [email protected], or 212-389-1413. The report and materials will be made available at on Monday at 6 AM EST.

“Registering Millions” is part of Demos' ongoing work to expand and protect the freedom to vote for every eligible American.  Since 2004, Demos has been working to ensure proper implementation of the NVRA through a variety of strategies, including research, technical advice, advocacy, and litigation.