Washington could become the next state to automatically register voters

OLYMPIA, Wash. — A bill that would automatically register voters when they apply for or renew an enhanced driver’s license passed the state Senate. The measure reflects a national trend by the Democratic party to make voter registration easier.

“It’s largely turning things from an opt-in to an opt-out system,” the bill’s sponsor, Democratic state Representative Zack Hudgins was quoted in January after the bill was introduced in a House committee. “We want to increase the number of people that are registering to vote. We want to break down the hurdles and the barriers of registration.”

Under HB 2595, anyone 18 years or older who interacts with the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles is registered to vote. The bill does state voters will be offered an opportunity to decline to be registered.

The opt-in system is very similar to legislation passed in Oregon in 2016. During that year, Oregon’s voter turnout rose by 4.1 percent, higher than any other state.

So far, nine states plus the District of Columbia have automatic voter registration and just about every state is debating the policy.

The Washington state Legislature discussed two bills last year aimed at making it easier for voters to register, but both failed to get out of committee.