Today, Vermont became the fourth state with a secure automatic voter registration process on its books. The new law modernizes Vermont’s current voter registration system by automatically registering eligible Vermonters when they apply for or renew their driver’s license or other state-issued I.D.
Jaquelyn Reike, owner of Nutty Steph’s in Middlesex and member of the Main Street Alliance of Vermont spoke at the bill signing. She said, “This new law will protect the right of every eligible voter in Vermont – be they Democrat, Republican, Progressive, or Independent – to have their voice heard and their vote counted.”
“In Vermont at least, voting is an idea that leaders of all political stripes can get behind,” said Paul Burns, executive director of the Vermont Public Interest Research Group. “The simple truth is, this law will mean more people voting, and that’s healthy for our democracy.“
The law creates a secure and more accurate system that helps those who are eligible to vote get registered. It passed with near unanimous tri-partisan support in the legislature and includes language that protects noncitizens from prosecution should they inadvertently fail to decline to register.
“What struck me most about this process was that the debate turned entirely on ensuring that every part of this bill increased access broadly and equitably for all Vermonters,” said Lindsay DesLauriers, Director of the Main Street Alliance of Vermont. “While there is a push to limit voter access in other parts of this country, the members of all parties in Vermont questioned only the extent to which this legislation could be more inclusive and create more opportunities for people to vote.”
Main Street Alliance of Vermont, VPIRG, and Rights & Democracy worked closely with bill sponsor, Representative Chris Pearson (P-Burlington), the Senate Committee on Government Operations and Secretary of State Jim Condos to ensure that Vermont’s new law would protect and enhance the rights of all Vermonters. It also makes the system nimble and portable, so that a voter’s registration information is automatically updated whenever they change their address.
“At a time when several other states are busy setting up roadblocks to voter registration and participation, we are proud to be part of the effort to take an important step forward for democracy,” said Sheila Reed, board member of Rights & Democracy from Ryegate.