Automatic, online processes to increase access to democracy
LANSING – On September 24, 2019, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson announced that automatic voter registration officially has launched in Michigan and online voter registration will be available following the November 2019 election.
Automatic voter registration requires Secretary of State branch office staff to ensure that when Michigan citizens apply for or update their driver’s license or personal ID cards, they automatically are registered to vote unless they are ineligible or don’t want to be registered.
“Making voter registration automatic for eligible citizens means more Michigan residents will have access to participating in our democracy,” Benson said. “I look forward to this both strengthening our democracy and ultimately helping transactions move more quickly in branch offices by eliminating extra paperwork.”
Michigan began implementing automatic voter registration for driver’s license and personal ID transactions in person and online Sept. 9. The Department of State will be adding automatic voter registration for mail-based transactions in the coming months. Following the November 2019 election, the department also will launch an online portal for eligible citizens to register to vote at any time.
Preliminary data suggests automatic voter registration already is increasing voter registration in Michigan. Through the first two weeks of implementation, Michigan processed 46,527 registration transactions, an average of 4,653 per business day. By comparison, in the first two full weeks of September 2017, Michigan processed 40,022 transactions, or about 4,002 per business day.
The data is preliminary and includes only weekday transactions completed at branch offices and online; the Department of State will be releasing additional data reports after fuller data analysis can be conducted.
In the November 2018 election, Michigan voters overwhelmingly approved the Promote the Vote constitutional amendment, which contained measures to make voting more accessible and secure, including a provision that requires the automatic registration of citizens to vote at branch offices unless the citizen declines.
Driver’s license and personal ID card applications now have an “opt-out” box, which an eligible applicant must check if he or she doesn’t want to be registered to vote. As with the prior voter registration system at Secretary of State offices, only U.S. citizens are permitted to register.
Michigan joins 17 other states and the District of Columbia in enacting automatic voter registration to modernize their elections systems.