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Pennsylvania launches automatic voter registration on National Voter Registration Day

Pennsylvania will automatically register residents to vote, as they apply for or renew their driver's licenses or state identification cards, the governor announced Tuesday on National Voter Registration Day. File photo by Tasos Katopodis/UPI
Pennsylvania will automatically register residents to vote, as they apply for or renew their driver's licenses or state identification cards, the governor announced Tuesday on National Voter Registration Day. File photo by Tasos Katopodis/UPI

Sept. 19 (UPI) -- Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro announced Tuesday that the key swing state will automatically register residents to vote, as they apply for or renew their driver's licenses or state identification cards, to "make elections more secure."

"I'm committed to ensuring free and fair elections that allow every eligible voter to make their voice heard," Shapiro said in a statement on Tuesday, which was National Voter Registration Day.

"Automatic voter registration is a commonsense step to ensure election security and save Pennsylvanians time and tax dollars," the Democratic governor added.

Starting Tuesday, residents who go to Pennsylvania Department of Transportation driver and photo license centers will be "automatically taken through the voter registration application process, unless they opt out of doing so."

Pennsylvania now joins 23 states -- including Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Georgia, Virginia and West Virginia -- that have also implemented driver's license voter registration.

Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro announced Tuesday that the key swing state will automatically register residents to vote, as they apply for or renew their driver’s licenses or state identification cards, to “make elections more secure.” Photo courtesy of Josh Shapiro campaign
Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro announced Tuesday that the key swing state will automatically register residents to vote, as they apply for or renew their driver’s licenses or state identification cards, to “make elections more secure.” Photo courtesy of Josh Shapiro campaign

To be eligible to register, applicants must be a U.S. citizen for at least 30 days before the next election, be a resident of Pennsylvania and be at least 18 years old on the date of the next election.

Secretary of the Commonwealth Al Schmidt applauded the governor's announcement, saying automatic voter registration makes sense.

"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," Schmidt said. "Having all of that happen at the same time means the verification process is extremely secure and makes the registration process more efficient."

Pennsylvania's House Republican leader Bryan Cutler disagreed, saying Shapiro's automatic voter registration does not go far enough as the governor bypassed state lawmakers.

"The problem here is not necessarily the end, but the means," Cutler said, as he called for voters to be required to show identification to cast a ballot. Cutler said if registered voters have a driver's license, there should be no issue when it comes to presenting I.D.

On Tuesday's National Voter Registration Day, Michigan also announced a new way to register voters as it joined forces with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

A new interagency agreement designated the Saginaw V.A. Medical Center, the Detroit V.A. Medical Center and the Detroit Regional Office as voter registration sites.

"Supporting our nation's Veterans includes making sure they can fully participate in our democratic process by voting," Acting Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs Guy Kiyokawa said in a statement.

"Veterans fought for the rights and freedoms that define us all as Americans, and it's our job to make sure they can enjoy those rights and freedoms here at home."