First Reading of Automatic Voter Registration Bill Held in DC Council
This week the DC Council had the first reading of B24-0951, the Automatic Voter Registration Expansion Amendment Act of 2022. This bill would expand automatic voter registration at District agencies and create “back-end” automatic voter registration. DC's automatic voter registration (AVR) system was approved in 2015 and became law in 2017 via the Automatic Voter Registration Amendment Act of 2015.
The AVR system permits DC residents to register to vote when they apply for an ID at the DC Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Automatic Voter Registration systems are not unique to DC. As of December 23, 2020, 20 states and the District of Columbia had enacted automatic voter registration policies.
DC currently implements a front-end AVR system which has been remarkably successful. It has been credited with both increasing voter registration and streamlining the registration process. Using a front-end system, qualified voters can opt-out of the automatic registration at the time of a transaction at the DMV. However, over the years, jurisdictions across the country have been utilizing back-end systems or have legislative proposals pending to implement them. Back-end systems allow potential voters to opt-out after the transaction with the appropriate agency. The opt-out process would usually be conducted through a form mailed to the resident's home after eligibility has been determined.
B24-0951, would also add the Department of Health Care Finance (“DHCF) as an agency that can conduct automatic voter registration. The bill would allow the DHCF to transmi medical assistance program applicant records to the DC Board of Election to review for voter eligibility. Other agencies could be designated for AVR by there would need to go through an agency rulemaking process. CLPA will detail what an agency rulemaking process looks like at a later time. For both DMV applicants and DHCF applicants, the agencies are required to submit the following information to the Board of Elections:
Date of birth
DMV-issued identification number or social security number
Councilmember Charles Allen, the lead sponsor of this bill, argues that many employees at agencies such as the DMV are not experts on voter registration eligibility issues. They may not have the training required to assist applicants unsure if they are eligible voters, which could lead to errors. Allowing state officials to review all applicants’ eligibility on the back end and capturing eligible applicants who may not have understood their eligibility, as well as weeding out ineligible applicants, would be more effective.
The bill was approved during its first read at the last DC Council Legislative Meeting. If enacted by the Council and approved by the Mayor, this bill would take effect after a 30-day period of congressional review and publication in the District of Columbia Register, well before the start of the 2024 Election cycle. The next stage in the legislative process is the bill's final reading which should occur at the next Legislative Meeting on December 6th.
Vote Report: B24-0951, the Automatic Voter Registration Expansion Amendment Act of 2022
Action: First Reading
Mary M. Cheh
Janeese Lewis George
Vincent C. Gray
Kenyan R. McDuffie
Brianne K. Nadeau
Robert C. White, Jr.
Trayon White, Sr.