Automatic voter registration becomes law in RI

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The office of Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo celebrated a new law Tuesday morning that enables anyone who does personal business at the state’s Motor Vehicle Division to register to vote automatically.

Dozens attended the signing ceremony at the State House Library. The bill officially became law last month. Rhode Island is now the ninth state to enact automatic voter registration. While making it convenient to get on the voter rolls, state leaders — including Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea — say it’ll help clean up voter rolls.

“32 other states are talking about it… While others are talking about it, Rhode Island is getting it done,” said Gorbea Tuesday morning.

Rhode Islanders who obtain, update or renew driver’s licenses will automatically be registered to vote. A change of address for a driver’s license will also update the voter record. While the DMV is already on board, other state agencies will participate in the future, Gorbea said.

“It is a strong statement from Rhode Island that we understand the value of the active participation of our citizens in our democracy,” said Rep. David Cicilline at the ceremony. “We want to make it easier, not more difficult.”

Connecting the driver’s and voters’ lists will help reduce bloat in voter rolls from unintentional or duplicate registrations, and reduce the potential for voter fraud, Gorbea said.

Drivers who don’t wish to be automatically registered to vote will be able to opt out.

Gov. Raimondo also noted, “Automatic voter registration makes it easier for folks, but particularly young people.”

“Now any young person who goes to get their license at the DMV — and you know how many young folks want to go out and drive — will also be registered to vote at the same time,” said Yanine Castillo, a representative of the Providence Student Union. “We believe this will help pre-register hundreds — or thousands — of young people, and help us engage in the political process sooner rather than later.”