WASHINGTON — People who live in the District could soon have the option of being automatically registered to vote due to a provision in the city’s $13.8 billion budget that lawmakers gave preliminary approval to on Tuesday.
Under the measure, residents who apply for a new driver’s license or identification card at D.C.’s Department of Motor Vehicles would automatically have their information transferred to the District of Columbia Board of Elections.
Eligible residents would then be registered to vote, unless they opt out of the automatic process.
“Registering to vote should be easy,” said D.C. Council member Charles Allen. “This removes any remaining barriers to voter registration by automatically registering people when they fill out an application for identification at the DMV.”
Allen first introduced the bill in 2015, and it was passed last year.
“In addition to streamlining the process, it will help ensure the accuracy of information on the voter rolls because the transfer would happen with the applications for address or name changes with the DMV,” said Allen.
The city’s new budget includes funding that will allow the DMV and elections board to develop a system for collecting and transferring registration information.
According to estimates, the system will cost $660,000 over a period of four years.
A memo from D.C.’s chief financial officer Jeffrey DeWitt states that the DMV will need a computer system upgrade in order to electronically send the mailing addresses of registered voters to the board of elections.
DeWitt added that the board of elections also will “need to add two full time positions to process additional registrations.”
Automatic voter registration has been approved in eight states, including Oregon, California, Alaska, Colorado, Georgia, West Virginia, Vermont and Connecticut.
In a tweet, Allen indicated that D.C’s automatic system would be up and running “this fall.”
The D.C. Council still needs to give final approval to the new budget. A vote is scheduled for June 13.
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