Pennsylvania expanded voting rights on Tuesday when it became the 24th state to enact automatic voter registration.
Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro announced the switch on National Voter Registration Day, explaining in a statement that the decision will ensure "free and fair elections that allow every eligible voter to make their voice heard."
“Automatic voter registration is a commonsense step to ensure election security and save Pennsylvanians time and tax dollars," he said. "Residents of our Commonwealth already provide proof of identity, residency, age, and citizenship at the DMV – all the information required to register to vote — so it makes good sense to streamline that process with voter registration."
Going forward, voters in the state will automatically be enrolled in the voting system when they obtain new identification cards. Previously, people had to opt in to the process to register to vote.
Automatic voter registration in PA
The governor's statement notes that automatic voter registration will particularly benefit military families, who tend to move around often. Automatically updating their voter registration information ensures that "these families can continue to participate in the democracy they work so hard to defend."
Automatic voter registration produces a notable increase of not just eligible voters, but also in voter turnout, according to a 2019 Brennan Center for Justice study and a 2021 study by the Public Policy Institute of California. It has not been shown to increase voter fraud.
Other states with automatic voter registration are Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Nevada, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia.
In an interview with MSNBC, Shapiro added that "greater voter participation equals a stronger democracy."
“I fundamentally believe, no matter who you’re going to vote for or what your particular viewpoint is, the more engaged our citizenry, the stronger our country, the healthier our democracy," he said. "And we took a giant leap forward here in the commonwealth today to do just that."