Last week, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a new system to simplify and modernize voter registration.
Currently, hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers register to vote each year at a Department of Motor Vehicles office where they fill out a paper form, which the DMV then mails to each county’s Board of Elections.
This multi-step process is outdated and error-prone, as a 2004 New York City study found typos in 20% of records.
However, under the new system, DMV offices will collect voter registration applications electronically and automatically pass that information directly to the Board of Elections. Moreover, eligible voters with a driver’s license will be able to register to vote or update their registration online without having to print and mail any forms.
This paperless registration system will likely improve New York’s low registration rate–64% of eligible voters are registered, making New York 48th in the nation for voter registration.
Only 17.6% New York’s voter registrations come from DMVs, but nationally this number is more than 30%. In Washington, the number of voter registration transactions at DMVs doubled after automation and in South Dakota it grew almost eightfold.
Twelve other states have fully automated registration at DMVs, and nine more have partial automation. Eleven states have online registration. Streamlining registration at DMVs increases accuracy, minimizes the potential for fraud and saves money, all while increasing registrations. Arizona’s Maricopa County recouped its startup costs for an automated registration system in a single election, saving over $450,000.