Column: Generation Z voters want AVR
I’m registered to vote because I got lucky. My school did all the heavy lifting for me, handing out forms during an assembly, collecting said forms, and delivering them to the city clerk’s office.
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I’m registered to vote because I got lucky. My school did all the heavy lifting for me, handing out forms during an assembly, collecting said forms, and delivering them to the city clerk’s office. Without this help, it’s hard to say when I would have got around to registering. With the busy life that my classmates and I lead, we can barely find time to sleep, much less register to vote.
But then I heard about Automatic Voter Registration (AVR) — a process that should be enacted in Hawaii.
AVR is a system in which through certain government transactions, eligible citizens are automatically registered to vote. This makes registering automatic — unless you choose to opt out. Instead of filling out your information on a separate form, the Elections Office gets the information it needs from other agencies who already have it, like the city Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
To a Gen Z-er like me, this is genius. Automatic Voter Registration requires less work from both the individual and the Office of Elections. I don’t have to do anything extra to register to vote, and election staffers would no longer have to spend hundreds of hours typing up all the information they receive manually.
But I understand the hesitation. To someone who didn’t grow up in the digital age, switching to a technological solution might seem unnecessary and expensive. However this method not only saves time, but it also makes the system more secure. Because people aren’t manually typing out the information, there is less opportunity for human error. Electronic registration costs about 30 times less than the manual paper system. Every time someone moves and updates their address on their driver’s license, it automatically updates their voter registration. No more absentee ballots sent to wrong addresses, and less money spent on mailing wasted ballots.
However, the most important part of AVR to me is how much it will impact my generation. Of the people I know, those who are my age and don’t have their driver’s license or permit are exceptions. Driving is a cultural milestone for a teenager. This guarantees that at some point, everyone will be taking a trip to the DMV. If AVR was enacted, a good majority of young people would be registered to vote. This does not mean that everyone who can vote, will. But it does mean that the choice is made easier for them. It takes them one step closer to the decision on whether or not to vote, instead of spending time deciding whether or not to register.
In Oregon, where AVR went into effect in 2016, of the 272,000 people registered, one-third went on to vote in the 2016 election. About two-fifths of voters who were registered through AVR were under 30, and nearly two-fifths of them actually cast a vote. It’s clear that AVR not only benefits democracy, but also the younger generation. When someone is automatically registered, people no longer have to ask if they can vote. Instead, they need to ask themselves, why not vote?
The change to AVR is common sense. It costs less, it’s more secure, and it improves how our democracy functions. We’re in a digital era, and if we want to combat the persistent complacency of those who have let decisions be made for them by not voting, we must modernize our systems.
AVR doesn’t force people to vote, it just makes choosing to vote easier. Legislators need to make AVR a reality in 2019 and prove they mean what they say when they tell my technology-savvy generation to get more involved. They can help us do so by improving the process by which we get to cast our vote.
Melia Marguleas is a senior at Punahou School, where she hopes to get more of her generation involved in the political process.