Mandatory voter registration (also called automatic voter registration) is a system that does not accomplish its goal of increased turnout but does create problems, such as inaccurate voter rolls. The need for clean voting rolls was a high priority of President Obama’s Presidential Commission on Election Administration, which stated in part:
[W]ell-maintained, “clean” rolls . . . protect against the potential or appearance of vulnerability to fraud.
The Commission also said:
Improving the accuracy of registration rolls, for example, can expand access, reduce administrative costs, prevent fraud and irregularity, and reduce polling place congestion leading to long lines.
Mandatory registration guarantees inaccurate rolls when people are registered who have no intention of ever voting in the jurisdiction, are transient, or are otherwise added to the rolls when they should not be. An example of a class of people who should never vote in a jurisdiction in which they are mandatorily registered are students who are temporarily in a jurisdiction for school without the intent to reside there. They intend to vote and return to their “homes” in another jurisdiction. Mandatorily registered people who do not intend to vote in jurisdiction increase the opportunity for fraud as others, knowing they won’t vote, can “vote” for them.
While there are many potential negatives to mandatory registration, there are no positives. There is no evidence that it increases registration. For example, in the 1990s the country of Canada enacted automatic registration and turnout went down.
Talking Points – Mandatory Voter Registration
Mandatory Voter Registration: How Universal Registration Threatens Electoral Integrity