Perhaps the most impressive recent success story in expanding political
participation has been the dramatic turnaround in public agency voter
registrations in some states. With the prodding of Demos, Project Vote, and others under the umbrella of the NVRA Project,
several states have reinvigorated compliance with this federal law that
requires that certain state agencies offer voter registration to the
individuals they serve. The most well known agencies are motor vehicle
departments, but public assistance agencies are also included and it is
they that can have the greatest impact on bringing low-income and
marginalized citizens into the political process.
Minnesota legislators passed a landmark voter registration modernization bill
recently that would, absent a veto, have registered or updated the
registration of voters automatically when they applied for a driver's
license, learner's permit or ID card. It would also use information in
motor vehicle and corrections databases to verify and maintain voter
rolls. This legislation, sponsored by Rep. Steve Simon and Sen. John Marty,
would have made Minnesota the first state in the nation to proactively
register voters, and made it among the most advanced in maintaining
clean, accurate voter rolls. The bill was designed to build on the
state's already first-in-the-nation portability bill, which requires automatic updates to voter registrations based on changes of address.
However, Governor Pawlenty vetoed this historic legislation last week...