Rhode Island is latest state to adopt automatic voter registration

Rhode Island on Wednesday became the ninth state to adopt automatic voter registration (AVR), a reform aimed at expanding access to voter rolls.

Gov. Gina Raimondo, a Democrat, signed a bill that would automatically register eligible voters when they come into contact with the state motor vehicles department, or potentially other government agencies, unless they decline.

The measure also would help reduce instances of people moving within the state and being registered at two different addresses—a problem that the White House voting commission has prioritized. When people change the address on their driver’s license and registration, the state’s voter registration database is updated.

“Automatic Voter Registration will help reduce the bloat in our voter rolls resulting from unintentional, duplicate voter registrations and help increase voter participation,” said Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea (pictured), a Democrat, who championed the legislation.

Rhode Island joins California, Colorado, Oregon, Vermont, West Virginia, Alaska, Connecticut, and Georgia in adopting AVR.

At the first in-person meeting of the White House commission on voting, several commissioners suggested that AVR ultimately does nothing to boost turnout. But the experience of Oregon, which was the first to put AVR into effect in January 2016, suggests it can have a significant effect.

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