By: Brooke Hannah
What if registering to vote was as easy as riding a bike? Well, maybe not a bike, but what about as easy and effortless as driving a car after years of experience? While it may not be quite that simple yet, West Virginia has made it close to being that simple as they have just passed a bill allowing for the information of those who get a driver’s license or identification card to be submitted into the voter registration process. Promoting and simplifying the voter registration process is an important goal for West Virginia. The state has demonstrated its dedication to improving the voter registration process by implementing automatic voter registration, launching online voter registration, and becoming a voting member of the Electronic Registration Information Center (“ERIC”).
West Virginia became the third state in the nation to pass an automatic voter registration bill, HB 4013. As mentioned above, this bill allows a West Virginian’s information to be submitted into the voter registration process when she goes to the Division of Motor Vehicles (“DMV”) for a driver’s license or official identification card. This information is also submitted upon renewal of the driver’s license or via a change of address. Therefore, many people will be registered to vote simply by accomplishing a task that they already intended to do. However, if citizens wish not to be registered, they will have the option to cancel their voter registration at any time. Automatic voter registration will take effect on July 1, 2017.
Automatic voter registration will also help to keep the registered voter list up to date as it will provide current information about eligible voters. Information that is collected from the DMV will be sent to the Secretary of State’s office. From there, the information will be sent to the applicable county clerk. This information, along with the information that is gained from ERIC, will allow West Virginia to expand the voter registration lists while also ensuring their reliability.
ERIC allows West Virginia to save money and helps to ensure the integrity of elections. Membership in ERIC provides county clerks with another tool to improve the accuracy of voter rolls and increase voter registration access. These benefits are achieved because ERIC matches data from member states for voters who have moved in-state, voters who have moved out-of-state, voters who have died, voters with duplicate registrations, and individuals who are potentially eligible to vote, but are not yet registered.
A third step that West Virginia has taken to increase voter registration is to provide online voter registration. This year was the first year West Virginians have had the opportunity to register online. Natalie E. Tennant, the Secretary of State of West Virginia, said that more than 56,000 submissions were made through the online voter registration system as of September 30, 2016. Additionally, 53.6 percent of the online submissions were new voter registration applications. This demonstrates that online voter registration is already proving to be an important measure in the state’s efforts to increase its number of registered voters.
Overall, West Virginia has taken several steps to streamline and promote the voter registration process. From passing HB 4013 to allow for automatic voter registration, to becoming a member of ERIC, and finally to providing online voter registration, West Virginia has provided its citizens a simplified and improved voter registration process that will continue to evolve over the years to come.