House panel advances automatic voter registration bill

Rep. Jennifer Schultz pressents her bill on automatic voter registration with the assistance of Secretary of State Steve Simon. Tim Pugmire|MPR News

Legislation creating what supporters call an automatic voter registration process in Minnesota passed its first test Wednesday in the House.

The House subcommittee on elections advanced the measure on voice vote, sending it to the government operations committee.

Under the bill, applicants for a state driver’s license, identification or learner’s permit would be put into the voter registration system unless they opted out. Current law allows people to opt in to voter registration during those transactions.

Rep. Jennifer Schultz, DFL-Duluth, said her bill would make voting more efficient.

“It reduces lines at the polling locations,” Schultz said. “It doesn’t deter voters if they see long lines, so it reduces those lines. It also improves the transmission of accurate information, moving away from paper documentation to electronic transfer of information by updating addresses.”

Only supporters of the bill testified during the committee hearing.

Secretary of State Steve Simon said the term automatic voter registration implies a massive change. But he said “there is less here than meets the eye” since only one step in the process would change.

“There is nothing particularly automatic about it,” Simon said. “It’s not like something happens and the computer works its magic and someone is automatically registered. That’s not the case now. It would be the case under this bill. It’s only changing the presumption.”

Simon also assured lawmakers that the proposed change would not result in the preregistration of young drivers who are still ineligible to vote. He said current law on eligibility would not change.

“This bill makes absolutely zero impact on the rules of eligibility in any way, shape or form,” he said.


Your support matters.

You make MPR News possible. Individual donations are behind the clarity in coverage from our reporters across the state, stories that connect us, and conversations that provide perspectives. Help ensure MPR remains a resource that brings Minnesotans together.