AUTOMATIC VOTER REGISTRATION
Automatic Voter Registration (AVR) is a process by which eligible voters are automatically registered to vote when they obtain a driver's license or state ID, unless they explicitly opt out. Currently, Ohio operates under an "opt-in" system in which citizens must fill out a separate voter registration form (essentially duplicating the same information submitted to get a driver's license) at a designated voter registrar location, online, or through the mail.
By automatically registering people to vote when they provide the information to get a state-issued ID or license, AVR allows us to have more up-to-date and accurate voter rolls, while also making it easier for those eligible to vote. AVR can help us streamline our voter registration process saving time and money, and also allow election day to operate more smoothly (who doesn't want that!?). And AVR is a bi-partisan solution having been enacted in both red states (WV, AK, and GA) and blue states (OR, RI and CO) alike.
HOW IT WORKS
Simple: instead of having to fill out and submit a separate registration, the information provided to the BMV does it for you.
When citizens obtain or renew a driver's license, ID, or learner's permit, the information provided to the BMV is transmitted electronically to the Ohio Secretary of State to register them to vote (unless they choose not to). The registration is then reviewed and validated to ensure that these citizens are eligible to vote. Then they are added to the voter rolls or their registration gets updated. Citizens have the option to decline this process at the point of contact with the BMV or later on, as the Board of Elections follows up to verify proof of residence.
EFFICIENCY AND ACCURACY
AVR improves efficiency and accuracy in our voter registration process. The process keeps registrations up to date and reduces instances of invalid, inaccurate, or missing voter registration information. At the same time:
Current rules on who is eligible to vote do not change
The verification and validation of voter registration remain the same
ENSURING ELECTION INTEGRITY
Because AVR leverages existing processes by which voters register to vote, it ensures that the integrity of the voting process can be maintained. Through AVR:
Who is eligible to vote does not change, only makes it easier for those who are eligible
Verification and validation of voter registration remains the same as it is today
The accuracy and validity of the voter file is improved by keeping voter registrations more up to date and reducing instances of invalid, inaccurate, or missing voter registration information
Likewise, AVR offers cost savings for the state. Given that the BMV already is a designated agency for registering voters, and Ohio already has an online registration system in place, implementing AVR also can save the state a lot in terms of costs. No doubt there are costs associated with setting up the system to transmit data electronically between the BMV and the Secretary of State, but states that have implemented similar reforms have shown these costs to be minimal. And there’s the potential for significant cost savings from a reduction in paper registrations and fewer provisional ballots. The cost of reviewing provisional ballots can be significant: a study in Arizona found a cost of nearly $4 per provisional ballot. Ohio had over 150,000 provisional ballots cast in the 2016 general election, so a 10% reduction of could net a savings of over $50,000.[i]
[i] When Delaware began transmitting registration information electronically from the BMV to the state election agency, it realized $200,000 in savings the first year. A study by the Pew Charitable Trust found that moving away from paper registrations could save up to $3.50 per registration in labor cost.