League of Women Voters Pushing Automatic Voter Registration Bills
This legislative session has witnessed the introduction of numerous bills addressing the need to reform Hawai‘i’s elections.
While the League of Women Voters supports all efforts to improve voter access, educate voters, and encourage voting, it is the accuracy and security to voter rolls provided through automatic voter registration (AVR) that is the first step to greater voter engagement. The League is gratified to see 10 AVR bills, from both the Senate and House, indicating that the public wants this reform. Many worthwhile approaches are being considered.
As the bills have sifted out, the League believes the most efficient way to proceed, while also leaving the option for AVR to be expanded, lies with the bills that are tied to the application for a Hawai‘i’s driver’s license or state I.D. Under these bills, SB412 and HB1217, when eligible voters apply for a State driver’s license or State ID card, they will automatically be signed up to vote, unless they decline. For voters already registered, it also provides a convenient way to update a registered voter’s contact information (such as a new mailing address). The League thanks the State Department of Transportation, County licensing examiners, and the Honolulu County Department of Information Technology for work already done to implement these measures.
“The League believes this approach will enhance the accuracy of voter records, cut down on costs and modernize manual registration systems,” said Erica Johnson, president of the League of Women Voters of Hawai‘i. “This legislation is especially important for Hawai‘i’s young people, who are familiar with how to obtain a driver’s license, but less familiar with how to register to vote.”
Also important are the cost-savings if Hawai‘i moves away from what is still a mostly paper-based voter registration system. Processing paper voter registration applications is labor intensive. This includes data entry, following up with applicants on missing information or errors on forms, and paying overtime and additional temporary staff to help process applications in a timely fashion before Election Day.
AVR allows for the electronic transfer of voter registration information from state agencies such as motor vehicle offices to election agencies. This would eliminate a great deal of data entry, printing, and mailing costs. Given that the legislature has recognized the need to modernize Hawai‘i’s elections and to improve access and accuracy of the voting process, now is the time for action.
The League of Women Voters of Hawai‘i is a non-partisan political organization that encourages i formed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy. For more information go online.