CREDIT: AP PHOTO/MICHAEL DWYER
On Tuesday, Connecticut became the fifth state in the nation to approve a system where residents are automatically registered to vote every time they visit a Department of Motor Vehicles, following the lead of Oregon, California, West Virginia, and Vermont. The state is the first, however, to completely bypass its state legislature and implement the policy administratively, which it will do over the next two years.
Secretary of the State Denise W. Merrill estimates that 400,000 eligible voters will be added to the rolls.
“This is a monumental event enhancing voting rights and opportunity in Connecticut, and a continuation of our rigorous efforts to bring new voters onto the rolls,” she said in a statement. “This agreement also puts Connecticut alongside a vanguard of states that are leading the nation in the movement to register every eligible citizen. This is a proud day for our state.”
The Secretary of State’s office and the Connecticut DMV hammered out a memorandum of understanding over the past few months to share data in order to register voters. While the automatic system is still in the works, the Connecticut DMV will reach out more aggressively to voters and give them the option to register at all DMV offices, by mail, or on the DMV’s mobile app.
These improvements may help the state avoid a lawsuit the Justice Department authorized in April over the state’s “widespread noncompliance” with federal laws regarding voter registration. An investigation found that Connecticut DMVs were largely failing to offer voters a chance to register when they applied for drivers licenses or updated their addresses. Many offices were only offering this option if residents specifically requested it, though they are required by law to offer it to everyone.
President Obama won Connecticut by fewer than 300,000 votes in 2012. If the state meets its goal in adding 400,000 new voters to the rolls over the next few years, those voters could easily sway a future election.