D.C. Budget Proposal Allows Automatic Voter Registration

A driver’s license in the District may soon come with an added perk: automatic voter registration.

The spending plan advanced May 30 by the D.C. Council gave preliminary approval to a measure that will allow the names, addresses and party affiliation of adults who get their driver’s licenses at the city’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to be forwarded to the D.C. Board of Elections to be entered on its voter rolls.

Under the plan, District residents 18 and older will automatically be registered to vote when they get a driver’s license in the city.

In a tweet following the council’s first vote on the 2018 budget, Council member Charles Allen indicated that the city hoped to use the system soon, saying, “Automatic voter registration begins in the District of Columbia starting this fall thanks to the budget we passed this afternoon!”

Allen introduced the bill in 2015. It was approved unanimously by the Council last year, though the measure has not been funded until now.

According to estimates, the development and implementation of the system needed to collect and transfer voter information between the DMV and election board will cost $660,000 over a period of four years.

Under the budget plan, the board of elections would be able to hire two employees to run the system, and funding would be available to the DMV to complete an upgrade to transfer the data.

The new law will also lengthen the voter registration period. Under the law, the deadline will move from the current 30 days preceding a regularly scheduled election to 21 days. Voters will also be allowed to file a change of address on Election Day, even if for changes of ward.

Many Democrat politicians have touted automatic voter registration as a method to preserve voter access and to counter voter ID laws supported by some conservatives.

In a visit to the District’s Anacostia neighborhood in Southeast, civil rights activist Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. told residents that automatic voter registration was a necessary step for African-Americans residents to resist the many challenges of the gentrification the city is experiencing.

“You get a birth certificate when you are born, a death certificate when you die, and at age 18 you should be automatically registered to vote,” said Jackson, adding that automatic voter registration will help cities save money on the registration process and help protect people’s right to vote.

In the past year, lawmakers in 32 states have introduced bills for automatic voter registration of licensed drivers. If approved, D.C. would join eight other states with automatic voter registration including California, Oregon, Alaska, Georgia, West Virginia, Colorado, Vermont and Connecticut.

The council will hold its final vote on the budget on June 13.

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Tatyana Hopkins – Washington Informer Contributing Writer

Tatyana Hopkins has always wanted to make the world a better place. Growing up she knew she wanted to be a journalist. To her there were too many issues in the world to pick a career that would force her to just tackle one. The recent Howard University graduate is thankful to have a job and enjoys the thrill she gets from chasing the story, meeting new people and adding new bits of obscure information to her knowledge base. Dubbed with the nickname “Fun Fact” by her friends, Tatyana seems to be full of seemingly “random and useless” facts. Meanwhile, the rising rents in D.C. have driven her to wonder about the length of the adverse possession statute of limitations (15 years?). Despite disliking public speaking, she remembers being scolded for talking in class or for holding up strangers in drawn-out conversations. Her need to understand the world and its various inhabitants frequently lands her in conversations on topics often deemed taboo: politics, religion and money. Tatyana avoided sports in high school she because the thought of a crowd watching her play freaked her out, but found herself studying Arabic, traveling to Egypt and eating a pigeon. She uses social media to scope out meaningful and interesting stories and has been calling attention to fake news on the Internet for years.

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