Pennsylvania Latest State to Embrace Automatic Voter Registration, Triggers New Integrity Fears

by Natalia Mittelstadt


Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro (D) has implemented automatic voter registration, triggering new legal and election integrity concerns over voter roll maintenance as nearly half of U.S. states now follow such a policy.

Shapiro announced last Tuesday that the commonwealth would implement automatic voter registration, which means that residents obtaining state ID cards and driver’s licenses at Department of Transportation (PennDOT) centers will be automatically registered to vote.

Prior to the announcement, eligible residents had to opt into voter registration at the Department of Motor Vehicles, but now they will have to opt out if they don’t want to be registered to vote.

“Automatic voter registration is a commonsense step to ensure election security and save Pennsylvanians time and tax dollars,” Shapiro said in a statement. “Residents of our Commonwealth already provide proof of identity, residency, age, and citizenship at the DMV – all the information required to register to vote — so it makes good sense to streamline that process with voter registration.”

Shapiro’s announcement says that registration would be automatic for “eligible” residents, but it does not provide any detail on how the state would filter out foreign nationals. Citizenship is not a requirement to obtain a driver’s license in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania is the 24th state to implement automatic voter registration, following Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia.

On Monday, former President Donald Trump posted on Truth Social regarding the new policy in Pennsylvania.

“Pennsylvania is at it again! The Radical Left Governor, Josh Shapiro, has just announced a switch to Automatic Voter Registration, a disaster for the Election of Republicans, including your favorite President, ME!” Trump wrote.

“This is a totally Unconstitutional Act, and must be met harshly by Republican Leadership in Washington and Pennsylvania. Likewise, the RNC, and Ronna McDaniel, must spend their time working on this, instead of meaningless Debates where I am up by more than 50 points,” he continued.

Trump later added, “Start suing now, & get the right lawyers this time! The Pennsylvania Republican Party must likewise not let this happen. It will be a disaster for our Nation, which is being destroyed by these Lunatics, Marxists, & Fascists, whose only real ability is to CHEAT on Elections.”

On Tuesday, both the Republican National Committee and the Republican Party of Pennsylvania wrote letters to the Pennsylvania Secretary of the Commonwealth and the Pennsylvania Secretary of Transportation regarding the implementation of automatic voter registration in the state.

In both letters, the GOP groups wrote, “the only information provided on this new voter registration process is found in Governor Shapiro’s press release, leaving unanswered many important questions about how PennDOT is implementing these changes, how the new system operates, and what safeguards are in place to keep ineligible individuals off the state’s list of registered voters.”

The letters also noted that the “new process has been implemented just weeks before the October 23, 2023 voter registration deadline for the November 7, 2023 election.”

The GOP organizations asked for clarification as to the implementation of the new automatic voter registration process.

The Pennsylvania Freedom Caucus announced last Friday that it was planning to take legal action against Shapiro’s “overreach” by implementing automatic voter registration through the executive branch.

“This political maneuver, promulgated under the guise of increased voter participation, bypassed the proper, lawful procedural channels,” the caucus wrote. The group added that of the 23 other “states that adopted automatic voter registration, twenty did so through legislation or voter approval.”

Ken Cuccinelli, National Chairman of the Election Transparency Initiative and former Virginia Attorney General, told Just the News on Thursday that he believes the Pennsylvania Freedom Caucus would win in a lawsuit against Shapiro’s directive because he is “attempting to enact a law on his own,” contrary to the state constitution.

Cuccinelli added that, with automatic voter registration, it is difficult for the state to follow voter registration laws across “different state databases.”

He noted that there is “nothing in place to filter” voter eligibility requirements with the new process. This is because Shapiro and radical Democrats “don’t care about those requirements and are trying to find a way to get around them,” Cuccinelli said. “That is the logical conclusion and this is just a blatantly illegal way to go about it, and it undermines actual electoral integrity and people’s basic confidence in the election system.”

Shapiro is looking to “dirty [elections] up,” according to the former Virginia attorney general. Cuccinelli believes that this is because “if messy elections result in litigations,” then “the left accurately believes they have the advantage in just pure litigation because of [George] Soros-funded DAs.”

Jason Snead, executive director of the Honest Elections Project, told Just the News on Wednesday that automatic voter registration has caused issues in states before.

“Recent history proves that automatic voter registration is inherently problematic,” Snead said. “California botched tens of thousands of registrations and registered 1,500 ineligible people—including noncitizens—when it adopted automatic voter registrations. Illinois improperly registered hundreds of noncitizens when it implemented automatic voter registration.

“Many states are already struggling with bloated voter rolls filled with inaccurate, outdated, and duplicative voter registrations,” he added. “Pennsylvania is no exception. In fact, Pennsylvania was recently forced to admit to allowing 11,000 noncitizens to register to vote in the state. Automatic voter registration compounds these problems by making it even easier for ineligible people, noncitizens, and even illegal aliens to register to vote, especially when states do a poor job—or even outright refuse—to clean up dirty voter rolls.”

Shapiro’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday.

Regarding the letter from the RNC and PA GOP, PennDOT told Just the News on Friday that the department had received it.

The Pennsylvania Department of State’s office told Just the News on Friday that it had “received the letter.”

Following the legal action announcement of the Pennsylvania Freedom Caucus, Shapiro’s press secretary, Manuel Bonder, said in a statement, “It is abundantly clear that this commonsense step to securely streamline voter registration and enhance election security is within the governor’s authority.

“Gov. Shapiro has been committed to working with both Republicans and Democrats to get things done since day one — and any assertion otherwise is a distraction from the real work Pennsylvanians are expecting from their government,” Bonder continued. “Our Administration will remain focused on protecting our democracy and ensuring our elections are free, fair, safe and secure — and despite any attempts to spread misinformation and conspiracy theories about our elections, that is exactly what this action does.”

PennDOT Secretary Mike Carroll said in a statement regarding Shapiro’s announcement last week, “At PennDOT, we’re proud of our role in the voter registration process. These latest enhancements are a great example of how, through constant collaboration with the Department of State, we work to make this process as efficient as possible for eligible Pennsylvania residents.”

Secretary of the Commonwealth Al Schmidt also said in a statement with Shapiro’s announcement, “Registering eligible Commonwealth residents to vote during their visits to driver and photo license centers is a commonsense action. The voter is already in a state government facility with their identification documentation in hand, and they will have their picture taken and sign their name electronically. Having all of that happen at the same time means the verification process is extremely secure and makes the registration process more efficient.”

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Natalia Mittelstadt is a reporter at Just the News.
Photo “Gov. Josh Shapiro” by Gov. Josh Shapiro.



Reprinted with permission from Just the News.

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