An alternative to allowing Election Day registration is to let people register in routine interactions with the state, thereby removing the compliance costs that come with a separate trip to a registration site. That was the goal of the NVRA, which was modeled on state laws. The NVRA allowed all citizens to register to vote when they received or renewed a driver’s license, and hence is popularly known as the motor-voter law. A less well-known NVRA requirement is that agencies providing federal welfare benefits—such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Medicaid, and disability benefits—share voter registration forms and provide help in completing them, verifying applicants’ identification and helping them enroll in benefits. However, the requirement to encourage registration through the provision of social benefits has been implemented haphazardly and unevenly across states. 24 Consistent with these two records of implementation, evidence shows that historically the motor-voter program increased turnout but that agency-based registration did not. 25 However, recent legal efforts to compel states to fulfill their statutory responsibilities for agency-based registration have seen millions of new voters added to the rolls, pointing to the untapped potential of this approach.
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