Automatic Voter Registration (AVR) is a system of automatically adding individuals to the voter rolls when they apply for a driver’s license or state identification card at the state’s licensing office or other agencies.
In many cases, AVR does not require voters to sign or affirm a statement attesting to their eligibility to vote and does not allow voters to decline to register until days or weeks later. In many cases, there is no verification of citizenship or other qualifications prior to registration. As a result, many argue that AVR violates the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) as it does not require voters to affirm their eligibility at the time of registration.
Under the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), state and federal registration forms are available in all types of state agencies and in each local election office. With voter registration never being easier in America, there is simply no need to place all citizens on the voter registration rolls regardless of eligibility or personal choice.
Below are some of the free speech arguments against AVR:
- AVR takes the personal choice of registration away from the individual and violates a citizen’s First Amendment right to not participate in the electoral system.
- The act of registration or voting is undoubtedly an act of political speech. Similarly, citizens have a personal right not to speak, vote or register to vote.
- Many citizens are, in fact, trying to make a political statement when they choose not to register because they are not interested in the election or the candidates, believe that their vote will not make a difference, or do not wish to participate in politics.
- AVR registration also violates a citizen’s right to privacy, as voter registration lists are publicly available records and citizens do not have an opportunity to decline to participate.
There is no evidence that AVR increases turnout, but rather creates unnecessary problems in the accurate registration of voters. In Canada, automatic voter registration did not increase voter participation.
Registration in the United States is easy, and voters already have multiple ways to register, either in person, by mail, and in most cases, online registration. There are also many nonprofit groups whose major purpose is registering citizens to vote and who solicit registrations every election cycle.
Automatic registration results in many ineligible names being added, creating inaccurate voter rolls. AVR increases the vulnerability of the system for fraud by registering people who have no intention of voting in the jurisdiction, and increasing the potential for others to vote in the non-voter’s name.
There are millions of outdated and inaccurate voter registrations across the country, and automatic voter registration will only worsen the problem. Under AVR, individuals could be registered in multiple locations without their knowledge simply because they interact with a government agency.