West Virginia recently enacted a voter identification (“ID”) requirement and automatic voter registration (“AVR”) with the same legislation.
On February 19, 2016, the West Virginia House passed House Bill 4013, enacting a voter ID requirement prior to voting. While under consideration in the Senate, an amendment was added to the bill to enact AVR in West Virginia. On March 12, the legislature approved the final version of the bill including both the voter ID and provisions. A copy of the passed legislation is here. Democratic Governor Earl Ray Tomblin signed the bill on April 1.
The amendment to add AVR to the bill was largely unopposed by Republicans in the Senate and was passed with a voice vote. West Virginia has one of the lowest voter turnout rates in the country, and the Republican legislators, to the extent it appears they considered the AVR provision at all, believe that AVR will help increase turnout.
The AVR system that the bill established in West Virginia will begin on July 1, 2017, and have the following features:
- The Division of Motor Vehicles (“DMV”) will collect the following information from anyone applying for or updating a driver’s license or identification card:
- Full name;
- Date of birth;
- Residence address and mailing address, if different;
- Electronic signature;
- Telephone number;
- Email address;
- Political party membership, if any;
- Driver’s license number and last four digits of Social Security Number; and
- A notation that the person has attested to voter eligibility.
- The DMV will release all information obtained to the Secretary of State unless the person affirmatively declines to register to vote or update an existing registration.
- The Secretary of State will forward the information to the relevant county clerk.
- If a person declines to register to vote, the DMV will transmit the person’s name, address, date of birth, and electronic signature to the Secretary of State in case the person decides to register to vote in the future.
- The Secretary of State will establish procedures to maintain the confidentiality of information obtained from the DMV.
Lawyers Democracy Fund remains opposed to AVR. It is not a beneficial system to adopt, even if it helps ease the passage of a voter ID bill, and it will likely not increase voter turnout. LDF will post updates to this page as AVR is implemented in West Virginia.