Pennsylvania opts into automatic voter registration

By Christen Smith | The Center Square

Eric Glenn | Shutterstock

(The Center Square) – Residents receiving or renewing driver’s licenses and state ID cards will be automatically registered to vote.

Gov. Josh Shapiro made the announcement early Tuesday, joining Pennsylvania to a list of 23 other states — including Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Georgia, Virginia, and West Virginia — that automatically walk applicants through the process unless they opt out.

Pennsylvania is the birthplace of our democracy, and as Governor, I’m committed to ensuring free and fair elections that allow every eligible voter to make their voice heard,” Shapiro said. “Automatic voter registration is a commonsense step to ensure election security and save Pennsylvanians time and tax dollars.”

He said the new provision “makes sense,” given that residents provide proof of residency, age, citizenship and identity when applying for licenses and identification cards.

The announcement comes after a contentious few years over the security of the state’s voting procedures after no-excuse mail-in voting was adopted in 2019. Legislative Republicans have pushed for voter ID to close what they call glaring loopholes in the process, while Democrats have long opposed the measure as intentional disenfranchisement of marginalized communities.

Democratic leaders, however, agree with the administration’s policy change as a win for universal voting access.

Sen. Vince Hughes, D-Philadelphia, said the “improvement” affirms legislation he’s introduced to do the same and is “a testament to every civil and voting rights leader who has marched, raised their voice, and fought for a system that includes all Americans, including Black and Brown individuals or those who may feel intimidated to get involved.”

“We are better and stronger when we bring all voices and perspectives to the table,” he said.

In a statement to The Center Square, York County Republican Rep. Seth Grove said he’s “baffled” by continued resistance to voter ID, “while at the same time expanding the use of ‘motor-voter.'”

“Driver’s licenses are the most common form of voter ID by far, so it would stand to reason an initiative like this would be linked to voter ID,” he said. “Voting and registering to vote should be easy to do and hard to cheat. The governor should be focusing on both, unfortunately, he is not.”

In 2021, Grove authored a sprawling update to the state’s mail-in voting law that would include voter ID, ballot box restrictions, and new canvassing timelines, among other provisions. Despite bipartisan agreement on many of the proposals, former Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration rebuffed any attempt to enact universal voter ID.

The governor later told The Philadelphia Inquirer he wasn’t opposed to broadening the state’s voter ID law, just not in the way Grove’s bill proposed doing so. 

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