This article is made possible through Spotlight PA’s collaboration with Votebeat, a nonpartisan news organization covering local election administration and voting. This article is available for reprint under the terms of Votebeat’s republishing policy.
Republicans at the state and national level are still crying foul over Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro’s announcement last month that the state had adopted automatic voter registration at motor vehicle offices.
Conservatives are questioning not only the security and motives of the program, but also Shapiro’s authority to unilaterally make such a change without the legislature.
Despite claims of overreach and one threat to sue the governor, no one has yet actually challenged the move in court. A law from 1995 offers clues as to where the authority lies.
Shapiro announced on Sept. 19 that he was directing the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and the Department of State to change the system by which citizens register to vote while receiving a license or identification card. Whereas employees previously would offer motorists a chance to register to vote, now they automatically lead motorists through the process to register unless motorists opt out. The same documents that confirm a motorist’s identity, citizenship, and address are used in the voter registration submission.