Pennsylvania to automatically register voters when they get a new driver's license

Originally published at: Pennsylvania to automatically register voters when they get a new driver's license. | Boing Boing


Republicans are upset because they fear they can only win elections by suppressing votes and Pennsylvania is a blue-leaning swing state.

They’ve been opposing similar “motor voter” measures everywhere for decades. There are few better signifiers of their antipathy toward democracy than that.


This is great and all, but it is so frustrating that this is even a required step. All people elegible to vote should be automatically and permanently enrolled on their 18th birthday. They should get a freaking birthday card with their voter registration card that details all of their adult liberties. Freedom isn’t free.


I literally don’t remember if or how I registered to vote here in BC. Was it maybe automatic? It was definitely easy, otherwise I’d remember the struggle.

I was pretty shocked to find out that the so-called “land of the free” made registering to vote so difficult in many cases. Shameful!


I agree. There’s a problem with administration, though. How does the government know where to send the card? This could be handled by school systems, which have the address and birthdate of all their students, and may even have those facts for homeschoolers in that same district. But after a kid leaves school, we have the same question-- how does the government know where you should vote?


I guess this is why the motor voter option is the best of bad situation. Most people of voting age in this country drive, and many, if not most, people will update their license regularly enough to keep the address current. Unless you fine people for not voting like they do in Australia, it’ll be hard to enforce registration in the good ol’ U.S. of A. I wish people in this country understood the power that their vote has to shape almost every aspect of their lives.


They never had much of a problem when it came to sending out draft registration or jury duty notifications.


Well, currently all males in the US are required to register for the Selective Service (military draft), so that’s half the issue, but as @xkot points out, many kids are already registered with the DMV by the time they are 18. Also, any child who’s claimed as a dependent would have all of their info on file with the IRS. I don’t know what the right or legal pathway is, but there is loads of data at the state and federal level that could be deployed to answer that question. (@gracchus beat me to some of this)

But that’s not really the issue, is it? Youth tend to vote progressive, therefore they will never be allowed to vote without massive overhead. It’s working as designed.

ETA: Hell, they could mandate schools actively enroll students senior year. That alone would account for 90% of new voters (not an actual statistic, but it sounds right :wink:)


It’s funny that the party that claims the government is a wasteful pit of bureaucracy, also wants to - checks notes - make people interact with the government bureaucracy more times than it needs to.

Makes perfect sense to kill 2 birds with 1 stone.

Also, I hate trying to spell bureaucracy. God damn French words cluttering up the English :wink:

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I know how I did it (also in BC): I checked the box on my tax forms that authorises them to share my information with Elections Canada.

Which brings me to the obvious flaw with using a driver’s licence: if you get your licence at 16, then this automatic registration doesn’t kick in until you first renew your licence, at 21. After you’ve been able to vote for 3 years. Taxes are annual, which is presumably why Canada does it that way.


Plus there are voter registration cards sent out prior to all the levels of elections so we can correct information relating to us or former occupants. The biggest problem with elections in BC and elsewhere in Canada is getting people off their asses to go and vote.


I’d be OK with Australian-style “vote or we’ll fine you a modest amount; also, grab a democracy sausage on your way out!” elections.


Ah! That’s probably it. I know I continue to check that box, but I couldn’t have told you for sure that that’s how I initially signed up.

I also like that Elections Canada is non-partisan, and is responsible for Federal electoral boundaries. Keeps the gerrymandering to a minimum. (Although the electoral power of folks in New Brunswick is still more than 10% greater than us in BC, say.)


In Oregon, even if you get your License at 16, you are automatically registered to vote when you turn 18.
The DMV has your information. We have closed primaries here, you are registered as unaffiliated so you can’t vote in them, but you can change your party registration via website at any time up until ballots are mailed (Oregon is also all vote-by-mail)


I don’t know where they get the addresses for draft notices. That’s a good question.

But “never had much of a problem” is a doubtful assertion. When I worked in a school, we would get returned mail every single time we did a mass mailing to families.

They should put college alumni offices in charge. I have moved four times and I can’t shake them.


It’s a good start, but there will be a bias towards people who can afford a drivers license.


But 18 year olds are only part of the population. Most of the time when someone moves, their voting district changes. If they don’t buy a home, then there’s no one in the county government that knows they are there.


Yeah, true. I’m mainly thinking about first-time voters. The policy adopted by Penn would address most adult voter registration changes. Again, I’m not sure what the right approach is, but the current one is most certainly wrong from a Democracy standpoint.


Thank you for this!

I was going to jump in and point out automatic universal registration is a solved problem, but you beat me to it!

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Here, drivers licenses are free. The test costs $25, but that is waived for kids who qualify for free or reduced school lunch.


Particularly since advocates of more government have managed to get the “Real ID” program mandated in all 50 states. Since citizenship is not required to get a driving license in any state, requiring documentation proving (or disproving) citizenship is an unfunded federal mandate. Once they have established citizenship, we might as well get some benefit.