New Report Explains How “Motor Voter” is Leaving Voters Who Move Behind

By Project Vote November 23, 2016

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Today, Project Vote is pleased to release an important new report, Changes of Address and the National Voter Registration Act: How State DMVs are Failing Voters and Violating Federal Law.

Reforms like automatic voter registration have been gaining considerable support and momentum recently, and it is exciting to see states embrace the notion that government should take more responsibility for helping eligible Americans get and stay registered. However, it is important to note that many of the goals of these reforms could be met if states would just comply with an existing federal law: the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA). The NVRA’s change-of-address provisions were crafted precisely to ensure the accuracy of voter rolls, reduce the burden of voters, and streamline the process through DMVs. These provisions, if followed properly, would ensure that the vast majority of Americans are registered to vote at their current addresses.

Our new report—written by Project Vote election counsel Archita Taylor and attorney volunteer Sylvia Albert—outlines the ways in which too many state DMVs are failing to comply with the NVRA when voters report a change of address. According to the NVRA, any change-of-address form submitted through DMVs must also serve as notification of an address change for voter registration, unless the registrant indicates otherwise.

However, Project Vote conducted a comprehensive review of state forms and online portals, and found that the overwhelming majority of states are failing to comply with these requirements. This means that voters who move are, through no fault of their own, less likely to have a current, valid voter registration. And this is of serious concern, especially since we know that populations who are already underrepresented—including low-income, minority, and younger Americans—are all more likely to move frequently.

Changes of Address and the National Voter Registration Act summarizes how DMVs are failing the NVRA—through both paper forms and online portals—and suggests best practices for how states can comply with federal law, avoid costly litigation, and do right by voters.