Democracy works best when we all participate, but we have a lot of work to do to reduce barriers to voting and help increase civic participation.

Maryland has become a leader in improving our democracy. Every American has the fundamental right to vote, and have that vote counted. And in a day and age when we can use computers and smartphones to do everything from paying our utility bills to reading the day's headlines, there is no reason registering to vote shouldn’t be easy, accurate and automatic. And our automatic voter registration program is a shining example for the rest of the country.

Now in Maryland, any time you interact with the MVA you are automatically registered to vote if you are eligible. Automatic voter registration is a vital step toward a more fair and equal democracy, but most states don’t have this program. Maryland PIRG and our national network want to make automatic voter registration a reality in every state and expand the program to more state agencies. Across the country, outdated, inaccurate systems often create real barriers to voter registration. An estimated 1 in 8 national voter records is either invalid or has serious issues, many due to human errors from processing paper applications. And it’s estimated that, in 2012, more than 1 million eligible voters were turned away at the polls because of registration issues.

Our country can do better.

We’ve figured out how to let people pay their taxes using 21st-century tools. Shouldn’t we be able to do the same with our voting systems? To modernize the vote we should  start at the point of entry — registration — and make sure more people are registered to vote automatically.

Our idea is simple — anytime you interact with a government agency your voter registration is updated electronically and automatically.

  • <h5>Benefits Of Automatic Voter Registration</h5><h4>IT'S EASY</h4><p>When you go to the MVA or another government agency and update your information, it automatically updates your voter registration.</p>
  • <h5>Benefits Of Automatic Voter Registration</h5><h4>IT'S AUTOMATIC</h4><p>Under automatic voter registration, the default assumption is that you are registered to vote, instead of pre-supposing that you are not. Under this system, eligible voters are automatically added to the rolls.</p>
  • <h5>Benefits Of Automatic Voter Registration</h5><h4>IT'S MORE ACCURATE</h4><p>An estimated 1 in 8 voter records on the rolls is either invalid or has serious issues, many due to human errors from processing paper applications.</p>
  • <h5>Benefits Of Automatic Voter Registration</h5><h4>IT'S MORE DEMOCRATIC</h4><p>Automatic voter registration could add millions of eligible voters to the rolls, bringing more voices into our elections and ensuring everyone has the opportunity to be heard. </p>
Gaining Momentum

States from Oregon to New Jersey and Washington to Maryland have joined us in passing Automatic Voter Registration. It’s time for other state leaders to modernize their voting systems, starting with Automatic Voter Registration.

Maryland PIRG and our national network have a long history of working on the ground to increase voter participation. Through the New Voters Project and Community Voters Project, we have accumulated a vast wealth of knowledge about what processes work and what it takes to get citizens registered — as well as the local relationships we need to organize key stakeholders to advocate for modernization. Getting more people registered to vote and moving our country toward universal registration are among the best strategies for increasing voter participation.

Maryland PIRG Associate Rishi Shah speaks at a press conference to support the Student Voter Empowerment Act
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Top photo: Alexandru Nika via Shutterstock.com