Sims, Conklin: Make Pa. voting easier by making registration automatic

HARRISBURG, April 7 – State Reps. Brian Sims, D-Phila., and Scott Conklin, D-Centre, plan to introduce legislation reforming Pennsylvania's voter registration system by instituting automatic registration of all eligible voters, with provisions for opting out.


"Voting is a fundamental right of all Americans, but one which many forgo due to the burdens associated with voter registration, and the time and financial costs resulting from going to the polls. As technology continues its rapid advance, legislators must find efficient and less taxing methods for helping the citizens of Pennsylvania to exercise this fundamental right," Sims said. 


Conklin said, "Under our proposal, the responsibility of voter registration would be passed from eligible voters onto the Pennsylvania Department of State and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. Beginning July 1, 2015, the secretary of the commonwealth would initiate a program to automatically register eligible voters whose information is provided to PennDOT for obtaining a driver’s license or non-driver identification card. The Department of State would use the PennDOT data, which includes information on whether a person is a citizen, to register voters. These newly registered voters would then be sent a postcard with information on how to opt out of registration altogether and how to choose a party affiliation. Under our proposal, a newly registered voter would have 21 days to opt out of registration."


Sims said a new study on late interest in registering to vote provides additional evidence of the need for their bill.


Conklin said, "Instead of election-day registration as suggested by the researchers, our bill would have helped most of the Pennsylvanians who Google-searched too late for phrases like 'register to vote' -- they would have already been automatically registered to vote, weeks or months in advance, and would have avoided possible Election Day confusion. The researchers estimated 180,000 more Pennsylvanians would have been able to vote with election-day registration. While not all voters have a driver's license, it is clear that advance, automatic voter registration would surely have helped more than 100,000 Pennsylvanians who missed out on voting. Under our bill, Pennsylvania's 28-day registration cutoff would become much less of a barrier to exercising this core constitutional right."


Sims noted that the bill would not affect jury-duty lists since driver records are already one source of those lists in Pennsylvania.


Conklin said, "Oregon Gov. Kate Brown just signed a similar proposal into law on March 16. We believe now is the time for Pennsylvania to make things easier for voters here by adopting this innovative approach to voter registration. By reforming this sometimes cumbersome process, the General Assembly can send a message to the citizens of Pennsylvania that we value their input and we continue to encourage their participation."