Pennsylvanians will now be automatically registered to vote when they get a new driver’s license or ID card at the DMV, Gov. Josh Shapiro (D) announced Tuesday, adding the key swing state to a list of over 20 states that will automatically add voters to the 2024 rolls.
Before Tuesday, voters in Pennsylvania were offered the option to register while visiting the DMV, a process that required eligible voters to take additional steps to opt into the voter registration process, Shapiro said in a statement.
Automatic voter registration makes the process more efficient, Shapiro said, by adding people to the voter rolls unless they follow a prompt to opt out.
Shapiro described the move as good for democracy and called it a “commonsense step to ensure election security and save Pennsylvanians time and tax dollars.”
Shapiro also noted that automatic voter registration makes maintaining the accuracy of Pennsylvania’s voter rolls easier for local election officials who will receive automatic updates when residents obtain new identification.
The Shapiro administration said it doesn’t need legislation to make the change.
Pennsylvania has become a crucial swing state in recent years. In the past two presidential elections, less than 1.5% separated the two candidates, with former President Donald Trump winning the commonwealth by fewer than 70,000 votes in 2016 and President Joe Biden winning by 80,000 votes in 2020. Pennsylvania also became a focal point for Trump’s false voter fraud claims following his 2020 loss. In 2022, John Fetterman staved off Mehmet Oz in a close Senate race and gave Democrats the slight majority in the Senate.
The updates to Pennsylvania’s voter registration also include adding instructions in five more languages for voters. Pennsylvania now offers instructions on how to register to vote in 31 languages.
Before Monday’s announcement, 23 states and the District of Columbia offered automatic voter registration for their residents, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Pennsylvania is state number 24. The list includes several other swing states like Michigan, Georgia and Nevada. Research shows that automatic voter registration increases registration by several percentage points and increases the number of people actually voting by more than 1%, according to a 2021 study from the Public Policy Institute of California. States have been required to offer voter registration at DMVs since 1993, when Congress passed the National Voter Registration Act.
8.7 million. That’s how many Pennsylvanians were registered to vote as of December 2022, according to a Pennsylvania State Department Report. There are more than 10.3 million residents who are eligible to register, according to U.S. Census estimates.