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Utah Senate moves automatic voter registration bill to the Senate Floor

Brett Bolander, News and Features Section Editor

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The Utah Senate recently moved a bill out of committee that would automatically register people to vote at the DMV, a move that follows in the footsteps of states that have implemented similar programs.

 

Utah already has a DMV voter registration system in place, allowing people to check a box and register to vote when they apply for or renew a license.  This bill would change that system from opt in, to opt out. It may seem like a small change, but other states that have implemented this sort of program have seen dramatic increases in the amount of registered voters, as well as increased voter participation.  

 

In 2015, Oregon became the first state to implement an Automatic Voter Registration (AVR) system. The program automatically registered voters when they applied for or renewed their driver’s license unless they chose to opt out.  According to an analysis conducted by Demos, a voter rights advocacy group, Oregon registered around 225,000 people through the program, increasing the age and race diversity of their electorate. 37% of new AVR voters were under 30 years old and 11% were people of color.  44% of those registered through AVR voted in 2016.

 

Utah’s numbers pale in comparison.  According to a U.S. Census survey, only 52% of voters 18-24 years old were registered to vote in 2016, making Utah 28th in the nation.  Oregon is 6th, with 63% of 18-24 year olds registered to vote.  In a Salt Lake Tribune article Senator Diedre Henderson, the sponsor of the senate bill, criticized the current system, saying, “It’s a constitutional right to vote.  Right now, [the process is] onerous. It has mistakes.”

 

When asked about her thoughts regarding the new bill, Ms. Thompson, an English teacher at Riverton High, said, “Yes.  My thoughts are yes.” She added that she thought this program would be a great way to encourage students to be more civically minded, especially if an additional step was taken by integrating civics with other classes such as Driver’s Ed.

 

Young people are a huge portion of the population, yet they only make up a fraction of the electorate in Utah, just 43% of 18-24 year olds voted in 2016 compared to 71% of 45-64 year olds.  The older someone is, the more likely they are to vote. Automatic Voter Registration has seen huge success in Oregon and other states across the U.S. and if Utah sees results similar to Oregon’s, young and diverse voters could find themselves participating in politics for the first time.

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The student news site of Riverton High School in Riverton, Utah
Utah Senate moves automatic voter registration bill to the Senate Floor