Arizona lags on voter registration, but bill to fix it can’t get hearing

Arizona ranks 41st out of 50 states in the share of its citizens who are registered to vote. But a bill to dramatically expand access to voter registration can’t even get a hearing.

In January, three House Democratic lawmakers introduced an automatic voter registration measure, which would register any Arizonan who came in contact with the DMV, unless he or she opted out.

But, despite a grassroots campaign by progressive groups in support of the bill, it has yet to even receive a hearing in the House government affairs committee, which is chaired by Rep. Doug Coleman, a Republican.

A spokesman for Coleman pledged to respond to The Daily Democracy about the lawmaker’s stance on the bill but did not immediately do so.

Coleman’s inaction was highlighted Monday by the Phoenix New Times, whose requests for comment likewise met with no response.

Over the last two years, six states, including California, have approved automatic voter registration. Voting rights advocates say it has the potential to transform the electorate, by bringing large numbers of previously marginalized voters, especially minorities and the young, onto the rolls.

Support for automatic voter registration has become a consensus position among Democrats, but Republicans have been largely opposed. The governors of Nevada, Illinois, and New Jersey, all Republicans, have vetoed automatic voter registration bills.

Arizona Republicans control both state houses and the governorship. But in recent years, Democrats have made gains in Arizona thanks in large part to newly registered Hispanic voters. Enacting policies that further expand the electorate could make the state even more competitive.

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