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Automatic Voter Registration

In Short

The League of Women Voters of Maine, together with our national affiliate and sister Leagues across the country, support new mechanisms to assist in voter registration, including automatic voter registration (AVR).

AVR is a secure and efficient process that improves the timeliness and accuracy of our voter rolls. The system registers eligible citizens to vote when they get or renew a driver's license or change their address with the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. Eligible citizens will also be registered when the interact with other state agencies where they are already asked to provide proof of eligibility to vote: identity, address, citizenship, and signature.

The League of Women Voters of Oregon, California, Alaska, and Connecticut, among others, were part of the coalitions driving AVR forward in their states, paying close attention to bill language to ensure that the new systems of registration did not negatively impact underrepresented communities. We support provisions and safeguards to ensure that all eligible Americans can participate in AVR and that those who are not eligible to vote are not wrongly brought into the system by government action.

AVR laws have now been passed in 17 states and the District of Columbia.

Next Steps

In 2019, the Maine State Legislature passed an Automatic Voter Registration bill.  Until the bill is fully implemented, individuals wishing to vote will still need to complete a voter registration card. The State of Maine Voter Guide describes eligibility requirements and explains how to complete a voter registration application. 

The first portion of the new law took effect January 1, 2020, and allows eligible 16- and 17-year-olds to pre-register to vote (expanded from previous law, which allowed 17-year-olds to pre-register). They can register at their town office or city hall, through any Bureau of Motor Vehicles branch office, in most state and federal social service agencies, or at voter registration drives. They will not be able to vote until their 18th birthday, except that they can vote in a primary election if they will be 18 by the time of the general election. Otherwise their pre-registration will automatically take effect on their 18th birthday. (Like all voters, teens must update their address if they have moved since registering.)

The new Automatic Voter Registration law calls for full implementation by January, 2022. New rules and possibly new legislation will be required before the system takes effect. Under the new law, unless voters opt out, they will automatically be registered to vote when they receive or renew their drivers' licenses at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles and/or when they apply for or renew their eligibility for MaineCare. Eventually this may extend to other state agencies. The League of Women Voters of Maine will be closely following the progress of this significant step toward our ambitious goal of 100% registration of eligible voters. 

Read Our Legislative Testimony on This and Other Priority Issues

Benefits of AVR

AVR is a straightforward idea. It's a process for registering voters at the time eligible individuals interact with state agencies like the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, while also giving them the opportunity to opt out or enroll in a party.

ACCESSIBILITY: AVR makes voting accessible for more Mainers who can sometimes find it a challenge to keep their registration updated--members of the military, people with disabilities, and senior citizens, among others.

ENGAGEMENT: Up-to-date addresses help ensure that candidates for office can connect with voters and constituents to share their vision and learn about issues of concern to the community.

SECURITY: AVR safeguards our voter rolls and helps ensure that all registration records are accurate and up-to-date so that our elections are free and fair.

ACCURACY: AVR helps keep the voter rolls up to date with the most accurate information for eligible voters. It rids the rolls of errors and inaccuracies encountered by voters, advocates and campaigns each year.

EFFICIENCY: By replacing our outdated paper-based system with a modern, electronic one, we can eliminate wasteful red tape and save taxpayer moeny. AVR can also improve efficiency at polling places on Election Day by reducing reliance on same-day registration.