Monday, May 20th marks the 20th anniversary of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA or “Motor Voter”). The bill was signed into law by President Bill Clinton on May 20, 1993. It allowed Department of Motor Vehicles to register persons to vote at the same time that they came to renew or obtain a new driver’s license. The law also allowed voter registration at other public agencies such as for persons obtaining disability services, food stamps and other social services to reach out to a greater segment of the population. The law has been essential in increasing voter registration opportunities and standardizing the process of removing voters from the registration list.
Thanks to the NVRA, millions of Americans have been able to register to vote through the Department of Motor Vehicles and other public agencies. The Motor Voter laws were designed to streamline the process of obtaining a driver’s license along with registering to vote. Motor Vehicle offices were able to accomplish a dual purpose. These laws are just one of the many ways to make it easier to register to vote.
With many Republican lawmakers’ attempts to disenfranchise voters and make it more difficult to vote, it is time to celebrate this historic moment in voting rights. Making the vote easier to access is the fundamental premise behind the Democracy that we fight for here and in other countries.
We can still do better in terms of making voter registration easier to accomplish for Americans. The Voter Empowerment Act re-introduced in 2013 would allow for online registration and registration to students at all college and university campuses that receive federal aid. Currently, the State of Washington allows for online voter registration. We also need to make federal voter registration easier for those who are elderly, disabled and unable to register in person.
Twenty years ago, the National Voter Registration Act was one step in the right direction to increase options for Americans to register to vote. But, we can and must do much better to ensure access to voter registration.