VT becomes fourth state to enact automatic voter registration

Governor Peter Shumlin signed H.458 into law Thursday, making Vermont the fourth state in the country to enact automatic voter registration.

The new law will essentially flip voter registration procedures at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Under current law, the DMV requires Vermonters to “opt in” to voter registration. But beginning in July 2017, Vermonters who apply for or renew their driver’s license at the DMV who meet the voter eligibility requirements will be automatically registered to vote through the Secretary of State’s office, unless they opt out of the system.

State officials estimate the automatic voter registration law – which VPIRG advocated for throughout the legislative sesssion – could add 30,000 to 50,000 voters to the state’s rolls.

The bill, which was introduced by Rep. Chris Pearson (P-Burlington), passed with enormous transpartisan support. It passed the House by an initial vote of 137-0, the Senate by a vote of 28-0 and received final approval in the house 125-1.

“In Vermont at least, voting is an idea that leaders of all political stripes can get behind,” said Paul Burns, VPIRG executive director. “The simple truth is, this law will mean more people voting, and that’s healthy for our democracy.”
Last year, VPIRG successfully pushed for an Election Day Registration law which will also take effect in 2017. These achievements make Vermont somewhat of an outlier. As many states continue moving to restrict voting rights, Vermont continues to lead the way in expanding democratic participation.