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The Motor Voter Law

The National Voter Registration Act (commonly referred to as “motor voter,” or, “NVRA”) took effect in 1995. The NVRA requires states to offer voter registration to citizens when they apply for drivers’ licenses. This tie between driver’s licensing agencies or facilities and voter registration is the source of the term “motor voter.” When individuals obtain drivers’ licenses, states can also assess needs and benefits for other assistance programs such as food stamps, Medicaid, Aid to Families with Dependent Children, and Women, Infants, and Children. The Act also imposes on states a requirement to designate additional offices for voter registration services.

Additional provisions of the law require states to accept a national mail-in voter registration form and to establish guidelines for maintaining the accuracy of voter registration rolls—most notably prohibiting states from removing registrants from the rolls for not voting. Despite the mandatory provisions, states have some discretion in how they implement the act’s provisions. The NVRA requires states to register voters in three specified ways in addition to any other procedures the state uses for voter registration:

  • Simultaneous application for a driver’s license and registration to vote
  • Mail-in application for voter registration
  • Application in person at designated government agencies

Election officials must send all applicants a notice informing them of their voter registration status.

Inside The Motor Voter Law