Gainey introduces automatic voter registration legislation

Proposal would register people when they access state services

WILKINSBURG, Jan. 21 – In the aftermath of a historic election that showed how important an engaged electorate is, state Rep. Ed Gainey, D-Allegheny, today introduced legislation that would continue to modernize Pennsylvania’s voting systems by creating an automatic voter registration program.

“This past year we saw how vital voting is to our democracy, when a record number of voters cast ballots despite a global pandemic,” Gainey said. “And despite the lies that were spread, we know our systems worked as they were supposed to, thanks to the hardworking election officials and volunteers who made it possible.

“It is my fear however, that in the years ahead there will be a push by some to try and restrict access to the polls. We cannot and should not allow this to happen. Instead, we should be making it easier for folks to vote, expanding voter access and encouraging people to engage in our democracy.”

Under Gainey’s bill, introduced Thursday as H.B. 205, qualified residents who utilize services through the Department of Transportation, Department of Human Services, or Department of Military and Veterans Affairs would be automatically registered to vote unless they choose to opt out. Those who remain registered would have the opportunity to choose a political affiliation if they wish and would receive a voter identification card in the mail. 

As of April 2020, 19 states and the District of Columbia provide automatic voter registration for people qualified to vote.