On Tuesday, Sept. 19, Governor Josh Shapiro announced that when Pennsylvania residents are obtaining their new driver’s license or state ID, they will get a prompt on the computer to register to vote.
The new process
To make voter registration easier, residents in Pennsylvania who go the Department of Motor Vehicles will have their information filled out automatically for them after that computer prompt if they are eligible to vote. Alternatively, they may choose to opt out.
Before the new voter registration process took effect, if residents were eligible to vote, they were asked if they would like to fill out a form. This is known as an opt-in system. Now, the system is opt-out.
According to Shapiro’s press release, “Automatic voter registration is a commonsense step to ensure election security and save Pennsylvanians time and tax dollars.”
The automatic voter registration will give county election professionals a break from the processing of paper applications because they will be recorded during the interactions in the driver’s license center.
In the same press release, Shapiro said he is “committed” to allowing every eligible voter to make their voice heard during election time. Shapiro believes with the new process, election officials’ important busy work maintaining the voter rolls should be “greatly streamlined and improved over the four-year election cycle.”
The public’s thoughts
Many voters agree with the idea that automatic voter registration is fair for elections and the public. Courtney Smith, chair and professor of history and political science, said, “I believe the automatic voter registration is a great idea and policy because there’s no harm in more people being involved in the voting process.”
Sara Hanley, junior writing major, agreed. “The new registration is convenient for the elections, but people could feel pressured or judged if they decide to opt out of being a voter,” she said.
Automatic voting equals more votes
The new voter policy can bring in more voices.10.3 million Pennsylvania residents are eligible to vote, according to U.S. Census estimates. Joseph Fitzgerald, history and political science professor, said, “I believe that the amount of voters will increase and this why political conservatives don’t like it. Year-by-year, fewer people align themselves with the Republican Party’s agenda, policies, and views of the world. The GOP knows this and so they rightly are afraid of the fact that more voters on the rolls, and especially highly motivated ones, means fewer people voting for Republican candidates.”
Smith said, “I hope the amount of voters will increase because whether it’s automatic or mail-in ballots, it gives people more access and ability to vote.” She continued, “it’s good to have more voices heard in the political process. Hanley said, “It could bring more votes in only because people feeling pressured to decide to register for voting”
Freedom of choice
The automatic voter registration can be a pressuring decision for the public. Smith said, “Being automatically registered to vote doesn’t mean you have to vote. You still have the choose to decide to register or opt out.” Fitzgerald agreed. “People can opt out of the voter registration system when they’re filling out various state applications, such as a driver’s license. It’s not burdensome to do so,” he said. Pennsylvania now joins 23 other states for automatic voter registration. The governor’s office stated that the move “aims to ensure free, fair, and secure elections.”