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PA becomes automatic voter registration state

How will this impact the Husky Community? Signs point to very little.

On Sept. 19, 2023, Pennsylvania adopted an automatic voter registration system following in the footsteps of 23 other states. This change means that everyone who gets a driver’s license or an official Pennsylvania ID card will be registered to vote when they go to a Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) facility to be photographed. While in the past, it has been possible for individuals to register to vote when getting a license, this removes the step of checking a box for it to be so. Instead, individuals will now have to opt out of the registration process.

According to Tim Pelton, the civic engagement coordinator at Bloomsburg University, other states have seen an increase in number of voters and election turnouts.

“In Pennsylvania[,] there are 1.6 million people who are eligible to be registered to vote but are not. This move may significantly reduce that number,” said Pelton.

Making voter registration automatic will increase the number of college students who are registered, but won’t address the bigger issue that individuals like Pelton, who aid in registration drives on campus, run into- registering in hometowns.

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Many students will be registered to vote in their hometowns, not where they are going to classes.

“One of the reasons that turnout rates for college students [are] lower than other groups is that many intend to go home to vote. But a test or a project due date prevents them from getting home to vote,” said Pelton.

Dr. Neil Strine, a political science professor at Bloomsburg University, believes this new system will have a very limited effect on the husky community. He argues that the issue with home addresses will continue to discourage students from voting and that the timing of the change won’t impact this group of students.

“Drivers’ licenses are renewed every four years, so I am guessing there are not many students who need to renew their driver’s while they are students here,” said Strine.

Strine also points out that being registered to vote does not mean being willing to vote.

“The automatic registration will expand the pool of registered voters, but it will not make the newly registered voters submit a mail-in vote or appear at the polls to vote on election day,” said Strine.

Others share a similar belief in a lack of positive impact on the student body.

“It might just make less passionate people vote when they otherwise wouldn’t. Less passionate people are usually less informed,” said Sean Oboyle, a freshman economics major.

Registration drives on campus will continue to be organized with little change needing to be made to its mission.

“For registration drives on campus the need will probably be much the same as now; not to get people registered, but to encourage them to change their registration to this region so they can vote without traveling back home,” said Pelton.

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Novalea Verno, Co-News Editor

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